The planet’s entire population of Amargosa voles—as few as 50 or as many as 500; no one really knows—lives in isolated remnants of marshland fed by springs that bubble beneath the Valley. The one-of-a-kind ecosystem of just 247 acres is as rare as the vole itself, a patchwork of watery oases in the middle of the Mojave, where temperatures reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The marshes attract thousands of migratory birds, coyotes, bobcats, and even a rare desert-dwelling fish.
The critters spend nearly all their short lives—about three months on average—in tunnels they’ve burrowed deep through impenetrable thickets of bulrush, which provide their sole food and shelter. Leaving the marshy fortress for open terrain would be tantamount to a death sentence: Weighing less than four ounces, the furry brown critters are extremely snackable, liable to become vole chow for any of two dozen predators that prowl Tecopa, including a pack of eight coyotes that live on an island in a nearby dry lake bed.
Drought, development, and climate change also threaten the rodent’s fragile habitat. Still, Amargosa voles have persisted here for thousands of years, surviving as the once vast marshlands of the Pleistocene epoch disappeared millennia ago and the wooly mammoth went the way of the saber-toothed tiger.
But now the vole’s days could be numbered. And that number is 1,825. Between 2013 and 2014, the rodent’s population violently crashed as its main marsh in Tecopa suddenly dried up. Biologist Robert Klinger of the United States Geological Survey and other scientists subsequently determined that unless drastic action was taken, there was an 82 percent chance the vole would go extinct within five years.
Learn more here: http://www.takepart.com/feature/2015/04/08/last-chance-save-amargosa-vole-most-critically-endangered-mammal?cmpid=organic-share-facebook
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