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WYO Pocket Gopher Doesn’t Make the List

April 15, 2010

LANDER, Wyo. - The feds have said "no" to an endangered species listing for a tiny mammal that only lives in Wyoming's Sweetwater and Carbon Counties. Conservation groups petitioned three years ago to get protection for the Wyoming pocket gopher. That brought concerns because a listing would have affected oil, gas and wind development planned for over much of the creature's range.

Wildlife biologist Sophie Osborn with the Wyoming Outdoor Council says more research is needed.

"We don't even really know, when the young leave the burrow, how they establish new territories - do they travel over ground, do they travel underground, do they travel under snow? We don't know how they move, and so we don't know how they would be affected."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday announced the decision not to list the Wyoming pocket gopher as endangered. Osborn believes the species was rejected because there's a lack of research about how the gophers would respond to human intrusions such as roads, heavy equipment and noise.

While other species of gophers have a bad rap for damaging property and crops, Osborn says pocket gophers are an important food source for birds of prey and bring additional benefits.

"Pocket gophers can be incredibly useful to the ecosystems in which they live. They aerate the soil. They often determine what plants are on the surface."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday announced the decision not to list the Wyoming pocket gopher as endangered. Osborn believes the species was rejected because there's a lack of research about how the gophers would respond to human intrusions such as roads, heavy equipment and noise.

The Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and Center for Native Ecosystems petitioned for protection for the Wyoming pocket gopher in 2007.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY