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Old 06-17-2004, 04:50 PM
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Default Protecting Fauna Protects Flora

Date: 06/16/04
Time: 12:45 PM

IDAHO SQUIRRELS ENDANGERED: Boise State University biologists, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local landowners are "are working cooperatively to save the squirrels, which play a key role in the shrub-steppe ecosystem where they live," according to the Idaho Statesman, 6/15. The southern Idaho ground squirrel, a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act, is threatened by "shooting, poisoning, habitat degradation and the invasion of alien weeds" which have "shrunk its numbers from 40,000 to 4,000 since 1984." The small brown spotted burrowers play a role similar to earthworms in the ecosystem. "They increase the productivity of grasses and other plants by increasing soil fertility. They increase the rate of water infiltration and help prevent soil compaction," said Eric Yensen, the Albertson College biology professor who discovered the squirrels were a separate species in the 1980s.
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