PHOTO: Jennifer Frey
As of 2005, scientists say there were 29 surviving populations of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse in the Southwest, but biologists say they believe there may be fewer now.

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A little mouse that lives in parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado has been put on the endangered species list.

The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse relies on tall grasses in areas close to water, known as riparian habitats.

As of 2005, scientists say there were 29 surviving populations of the mouse in the Southwest, but biologists say they believe there may be fewer now.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the rodent warrants protection because of a significant decline in its population, as well as the loss of suitable habitat due to grazing, water use, development and other factors.

WildEarth Guardians and the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity have been trying to seek protection for the mouse, which is just one of many species that relies on healthy riparian ecosystems for survival.

"It has a very preferred source in the food chain. It's sought after by species like fox and red-tailed hawk and garter snakes," said Jay Lininger, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity.

"It's an indicator of healthy riparian habitats of which there are not many left in the Southwest ," he added.

Arizona has dozens of species that are listed as endangered or threatened.