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Rodent Week: Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse

Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse Continuing with Rodent Week here on iWild, we turn to the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List. This mouse is a salt specialist, capable of swimming through marshes as well as drinking salt water and consuming plants with considerable salt content, including glasswort and pickleweed. Endemic to the San Francisco Bay area, the two subspecies of this mouse play an integral role in the salt marsh habitat of the Bay area. But as the marshes were destroyed in past decades—by commercial salt harvesting, pollution, and development—the mouse has declined drastically as its habitat has become fragmented. The species now occupies less than 200 square miles. “Nancy Pelosi’s Mouse”: To add insult to injury, the mouse has fallen victim to the poisonous partisan politics surrounding endangered species protection in the U.S. In 2009, Republicans Mike Pence (Indiana) and Dan Lungren (California) got up on their hind legs, trying to derail the 2009 Economic Stimulus package by claiming that $30 million would go to “San Francisco mice.” In fact, the $30 million was targeted at wetlands restoration around the Bay, a crucial flood-control initiative and the largest restoration project on the west coast, aimed at restoring 15,100 acres of industrial salt ponds. The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is a highly-regarded scientific effort which has generated jobs along with new economic and recreational opportunities. The Republicans’ false claim was debunked by Jackie Speier, a Representative from San Francisco, who pointed out in the San Francisco Chronicle that the mouse lives “everywhere around the Bay except San Francisco.” But, as David Frum pointed out, “the problem with the story is not that it was false. The problem with the story is that it was stupid.”
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