CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday it would continue to protect as a threatened species a mouse that lives along streams in Colorado and eastern Wyoming, saying human development continues to threaten the animal’s riparian habitat.
The state of Wyoming and the group Coloradoans for Water Conservation have petitioned since 2003 to remove the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse from protection under the Endangered Species Act.
A new review turned up no new information to warrant removing the Preble’s mouse from threatened species status, the wildlife service announced.
“Human populations continue to increase along the Front Range of Colorado and in Wyoming, and as a result, urban development, flood control, water development, aggregate mining and other human land uses continue to adversely affect Preble’s habitats and populations,” the agency said in a release.
The Preble’s mouse has large hind feet and an unusually long tail, and can jump long distances for its size. The mouse is very similar to other subspecies of jumping mice, and biologists often lean on DNA testing to distinguish Preble’s mice from other mice.
Though Fish and Wildlife has made room for typical farming and ranching practices in protecting the Preble’s mouse, the mouse has been a regional symbol of endangered species interfering with human activities for more than 15 years. Conservation groups look to the mouse as a means to protect habitat important for a variety of other species.
The mouse first was listed as threatened in 1998. From 2008 to 2011, Fish and Wildlife classified the Preble’s mouse as threatened in Colorado but not Wyoming, under the reasoning that development was less of a danger to the mouse in the sparsely populated state.
Two courts struck down the policy of allowing species to be classified differently between states, and the rulings returned the Preble’s mouse to the threatened list in Wyoming. Meanwhile, Fish and Wildlife revisited the petitions to delist, which remained unresolved.
In December, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and state wildlife officials weighed into the latest delisting review. They didn’t argue to remove the mouse from federal protection, however.
Instead, they sought to influence the terms under which Fish and Wildlife would continue to protect the mouse, including the extent of the species’ range.
“We believe the range has been overestimated in Wyoming,” said Steve Ferrell, wildlife and endangered species adviser for Mead.
Fish and Wildlife agreed, saying Thursday the range of the Preble’s mouse is smaller in Wyoming than previously thought and likely did not extend west of the Laramie Range.
The mouse’s habitat is east of the Front Range, from southeastern Wyoming to Colorado Springs, Colo., Fish and Wildlife determined.
By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press
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