Jul 27, 2014
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Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse: Little Critter Unique to Bay Does Big Work

The Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse can be credited with much of the tidal marsh restoration happening now. Two "Save The Bay" events are planned in January in Palo Alto.

Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse: Little Critter Unique to Bay Does Big Work

News from Save the Bay:

Most inhabitants of the Bay Area are aware of threatened species such as the sea otter and harbor porpoise, or even the endangered California clapper rail, but there’s a mammal that’s completely unique to the Bay Area and so tiny most people have never even seen one.

This mammal, among the smallest rodents in the U.S., lives only here in the Bay in a very specific habitat, and can be credited with much of the tidal marsh restoration happening now.

In 1970, thanks to the work of  Dr. Howard Shellhammer, the Environmental Protection Agency listed the salt marsh harvest mouse as endangered, and kick-started the explosion of San Francisco Bay conservation efforts. 

The endangered status of the salt marsh harvest mouse halted plans for development, agriculture, and industrialization of natural marsh habitat. 

A salt marsh harvest mouse is about the size of one’s thumb, largely nocturnal, and lives among the reddish pickle weed in the low tidal marsh—an area frequently subject to tidal inundation. Salt marsh harvest mice are adapted to live in this challenging environment, as they can swim short distances and consume food and water with a high salt content.

During high tides and peak flooding by storms, salt marsh harvest mice escape into the upland marsh for protection. It is this safe-haven habitat that has been greatly diminished and is of most concern for the survival of these tiny mammals. 

Without this high tide refugia, or proper corridors permitting travel to them, salt marsh harvest mice are subject to drowning and predation. The threat of sea level rise makes this an even greater concern

Although some of the habitat of the salt marsh harvest mouse is protected around the Bay, the continuing threats from pollution, poor water quality, invasive species, and habitat fragmentation are driving the population into further decline. 

Under the umbrella of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Tidal Marsh Recovery Plan, Save The Bay is working to prevent the loss of the salt marsh harvest mouse by preserving and restoring vital marshland habitat. Harvest mouse habitat is also habitat for hundreds of other species. That’s why Save The Bay works to prevent further filling of Bay tidal marsh, combat pollution, and restore the vital marsh habitat that the salt marsh harvest mice use during winter high tides and storms.

This winter we are planting 45,000 plants to provide suitable marsh habitat for this endangered species. Volunteer with us this season to plant suitable refuge for these unique, adorable rodents!

Want to get involved with Save the Bay? Here are two upcoming events in Palo Alto in January:

In partnership with the City of Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.

The Bay is essential to our quality of life here in the Bay Area. What better way to kick off International Quality of Life Month than to help the Bay by volunteering at the Palo Alto Baylands Native Plant Nursery? This is our first day of the season after a long winter break, and we’re ready to make more headway on our goal of planting 40,000 native seedlings this winter. Restore the wetlands for people and animals that call the San Francisco Bay home!

In partnership with the City of Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.

Teeming with great egrets, canvasbacks, godwits, willets, black-necked stilts, and long-billed curlews the San Francisco Bay is the perfect place to celebrate National Bird Day! Volunteering at the Palo Alto Baylands this weekend means you are helping to restore wetlands that provide essential habitat to millions of birds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway. By helping us plant their favorite native species you provide shelter, food, and nesting materials to get them through winter’s rainy days.

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