Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, July 1, 2013

Contact:  Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943,

Protection Slashed for California's Highly Endangered Buena Vista Lake Ornate Shrew

LOS ANGELES— Responding to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 2,485 acres of critical habitat for one of the most endangered mammals on the planet — the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew. Before the shrew gained federal protection as endangered in 2002, fewer than 30 of these unique animals were believed to remain on Earth. Today’s final critical habitat designation slashes in half the agency’s 2012 proposal of 5,182 acres, protecting only six areas on the floor of the Central Valley in Kern and Kings counties, Calif.

“It’s a tragic move by the Service, one that can’t be defended scientifically and a terrible blow to these tiny and intriguing mammals, whose brains are five times bigger for their size than people’s are,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist at the Center. “Cutting their habitat in half, when 95 percent of it has already been destroyed, is just potentially crippling for them. It also means many of the last vestiges of a once-great, vast wetland will go unprotected.”

The diminutive, insect-eating shrew was first identified in 1932 by noted California naturalist Joseph Grinnell. It once lived across nearly 1 million acres of wetlands and riparian forests that ringed the massive Tulare, Buena Vista, Kern and Goose lakes in the southern Central Valley. (Tulare Lake was once the largest lake west of the Mississippi.) Most of those waters and wetlands have been lost to draining and plowing.

Of the 57,000 acres of potential shrew habitat that are left, most fragments are too small and isolated to support healthy populations of the animal.

“Increased protections of these last places where the shrew survives will mean the difference between existence and extinction,” said Anderson. “You can’t save a species as endangered as the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew without protecting its home.”

Along with outright habitat destruction, the shrews are threatened by water diversions, agricultural expansion, pesticide spraying, selenium poisoning and drought.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back