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The FBI’s Peter Strzok spends 10 hours in open testimony in Congress. Also on the Friday rundown: Granite Staters protest AG Sessions' approach to fighting opioid abuse, and Latino Conservation Week starts on Saturday.

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Groundhogs and Flying Squirrels to Flee Michigan?

A new report shows how small creatures in Michigan, including the flying squirrel, are threatened by climate change. (Pratikppf/Wikimedia)
A new report shows how small creatures in Michigan, including the flying squirrel, are threatened by climate change. (Pratikppf/Wikimedia)
February 22, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Woody the Woodchuck's February weather prediction is a beloved event for many Michiganders, but warming temperatures could have an impact on that annual tradition.

According to findings from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), warming temperatures caused by climate change will shift habitats for some smaller mammals, including the groundhog.

Frank Szollosi, NWF outreach manager for the Great Lakes region, says in Michigan, one example is the flying squirrel.

"These squirrels have webbing between their arms and legs and body that allows them to glide through the air. It's really quite a sight," Szollosi says. "Climate is already having an impact in pushing these species further north in Michigan, and away from backyards in southern Michigan."

Szollosi predicts some animals native to southern states, including the armadillo, will eventually make their way as far north as some Midwestern states.

The report also notes habitat shifts for other species in Michigan, including the snowshoe hare, whose population is already dwindling, and the pine marten, a species recently reintroduced in the state but not thriving.

Szollosi says efforts to stem carbon pollution from a variety of sources will be required to protect small animals from the threat of climate change. The report cites the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, as an important first step.

He's convinced that a recent stay of the regulations by the U.S. Supreme Court establishes no precedent.

"The legal and policy merits continue to be on the side of compliance with the Clean Power Plan," he says. "And certainly the science and our moral obligation to confront climate couldn't be more clear."

The report also suggests reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas industry, speeding the transition away from fossil fuels. Szollosi says both would result in positive outcomes for wildlife.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI