The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing the Hualapai Mexican Vole from the list of endangered species. Genetic evidence suggests their numbers are more widespread in Arizona than previously believed.
The Hualapai Mexican Vole was originally listed in 1987 as a subspecies confined mainly to the Hualapai Mountains in the northwestern corner of Arizona. Now researchers question whether that designation is correct.
“There’s a lot of disagreement in the scientific community on what exactly the Hualapai subspecies is, as far as where it’s distributed,” says Steve Spangle, a supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “And which population belongs to which subspecies is up for debate.”
Genetic analysis has blurred the boundaries between the Hualapai Mexican Vole and other subspecies, leading scientists to rethink habitat range. Now they believe the cinnamon-colored, mouse-like creature is more common than previously thought.
Officials in Mohave County are in favor of delisting. They claim the vole’s protected status hinders ranching, recreation and the local economy.
However, the U.S. Endangered Species Act requires that the determination be based solely on scientific evidence and not on economic or emotional arguments. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will accept public comment on the proposed delisting until August 3.