In this July 24, 2013 photograph, a meadow jumping mouse stands on the edge of a container while being released at Rollins Savanna in Grayslake, Ill. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen/Stacey Stanford/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)
Rare jumping mice discovered
November 07, 2016
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Biologists who spent weeks in three New Mexico national forests searching for signs of an elusive, endangered mouse that looks somewhat like a tiny kangaroo have found what they call irrefutable evidence that it still lives in the state for which it is named.
The biologists have trapped New Mexico meadow jumping mice. The scientists collected fur and fecal samples during summertime surveys in the southern Lincoln National Forest, the northern Santa Fe National Forest and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests along the New Mexico-Arizona border. This is according to Beth Humphrey, a district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service. The animals had not been seen for years in those places.
With a tail that makes up most of its length, the rodent is called a jumping mouse because it can leap more than two feet into the air when frightened. Super-long tails help the mice keep their balance. This is especially when they scale plant stems to reach ripening seeds. The seeds are one of their main food sources.
The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse was listed as an endangered species in 2014. It prompted the U.S. Forest Service to fence off streams and watering holes in the Lincoln and Santa Fe forests to protect habitat. That spurred criticism from ranchers and others that the federal government was trampling private access to public lands in New Mexico.
Small populations of New Mexico meadow jumping mice have been found previously in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.
Last summer's surveys turned up the first hard evidence that they still live in areas where they had not been spotted in years. That's according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in an emailed statement.
The discoveries provide "hope that this species can recover over a period of time," said Humphrey. She works in New Mexico's Sacramento Mountains.
Humphrey said her district will collect public comments this fall on proposals for long-term strategies. They would be aimed at trying to protect and boost New Mexico meadow jumping mouse populations.
The mice live near streams. They depend on tall grass to hide from predators. They hibernate for about nine months, emerging in the late spring to gorge themselves before mating, giving birth and going back into hibernation. They normally live three years.
Jack Williams is a wildlife biologist based in the Sacramento Mountains. He said the mouse is difficult to trap. His crew surveyed five sites over six weeks and set more than 5,000 traps.
Biologists blame drought, wildfires, flooding and grazing in the habitat of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse for the rodent's declining numbers.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why were the mice difficult to find?
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