The Northern Bog lemming is a small mammal found in bogs, wetlands and tundra ecosystems throughout Canada, Alaska, Washington and New England.
Lemmings are subject to predation by owls, snakes, and hawks, but in recent times climate change and habitat destruction has been taking a heavy toll on the animal’s population.
In response, WildEarth Guardians filed a scientific petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) on Monday in Washington DC requesting Endangered Species Act protection for the northern bog lemming.
The following is information from WildEarth Guardians’ press statement:
“The bog lemming is just one of an increasing number of species threatened by climate change,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Until our government steps up and addresses the root causes of climate change, humans will continue driving species closer to extinction.”
Northern bog lemmings inhabit the cold wet peat bogs and mountain forests in northern latitudes. They live in isolated pockets of habitat in Canada and in several bordering U.S. states: Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Maine, and New Hampshire. Rare wherever they occur, these small, shy rodents seek out thick mats of sphagnum moss for shelter and sedges and grasses for food.
The most pressing threat to bog lemmings is the loss of their peatland homes. Already-rare islands of bog habitat are threatened by warming weather, changing weather patterns, peat harvest, logging, and road-building. Once destroyed, peatlands are nearly impossible to restore. Peatlands need consistent waterflows and are sensitive to changes in water quantity, sedimentation, and pollution.
Climate change is likely to drive the southern borders of bog lemming habitat northward. Small, isolated populations and limited travel abilities increase the species’ chances of extinction. Protecting the lemming under the ESA would ensure responsible management of peatlands and protect the watersheds that feed into them.
“Bog lemmings are a harbinger of the impacts of climate change in the United States,” said Jones. “Uniquely adapted to already rare imperiled habitats, the species needs the protections of the Endangered Species Act to survive and recover.”
Protection under the ESA is an effective safety net for imperiled species. More than 99 percent of listed plants and animals still exist today. The law is especially important as a bulwark against the current extinction crisis; plants and animals are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities.
Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct if not for ESA protections.
For more information visit WildEarth Guardians website.