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Nearly Extinct Mouse May Be Saved by Navy’s Port Plan

October 21, 1986

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ The nearly extinct Perdido Key beach mouse may get help from an unexpected source - the U.S. Navy.

As part of its plan to make Pensacola the home port of a large-deck aircraft carrier, the Navy says it will spread about 6 million cubic yards of fine sand from the ship channel on Perdido Key’s eastern end.

That could eventually restore the part of endangered mouse’s old habitat, all but wiped out by Hurricane Frederic in 1979. Only two dozen of the mice are known to be left.

″It could be there again if you had two things: one, if the dunes return and two, if you had mice to put back in there,″ said Buck Thackeray, assistant park ranger at Gulf Islands National Seashore.

The long, narrow island, just off the coast, is partly in Florida and partly in Alabama.

In a draft of an environmental impact statement on the effects of the home port, Navy planners said that spreading the sand on the key would restore the beach dunes and vegetation that provide home and food for the mice.

Thackeray said the mouse, which adapted to the harsh environment along the dune line to 330 feet inland, was in decline from an eroding habitat and predators when Hurricane Frederic dealt it a harsh blow.

″It probably was just enough to push that mouse population over the edge,″ he said.

John Paradiso, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Jacksonville, said studies showed that before Hurricane Frederic, 78 beach mice were living on the Key - 52 on the eastern end and 26 at Alabama’s Gulf State Park, the western end of the key.

After the hurricane in late 1979, only one mouse was trapped by biologists, in Gulf State Park. Today, only about two dozen of the mice exist - all in Alabama.

″The recovery plans calls for attempting to breed some of these mice in captivity,″ Paradiso said. ″If we were able to breed in captivity, there’s a chance it could come back. But you have to be careful when you’re dealing with 24 mice.″

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