07/02/2014 06:39 EDT | Updated 09/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Pacific Water Shrew Disappearing From Lower Mainland

A recovery strategy is being drawn up for the critically-imperiled Pacific water shrew, a small, elusive rodent whose chief habitat is areas of the Lower Mainland near small streams or rivers commonly known as riparian zones.

The proposed federal strategy to save the shrew was released last month, and outlines the need for population counts and habitat measurements through the next three years in order to try and halt further population loss over the next 10 years.

The provincial government has already pledged to protect shrews on Crown land and to require conservation measures on private lands.

The Pacific water shrew moves slowly on very short legs and its Canadian habitat is mainly limited to areas in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

Conservationists says human destruction or alteration of the tiny mammal's habitat can destroy its sources of food and leave it with no cover, making it easy prey for birds and other predators.

Though the shrew, also known as the marsh shrew, is ranked as "apparently secure" in the United States, where its range extends to northern California, the Canadian government lists the rodent as "critically imperiled" in its Canadian range, and B.C. lists it as "imperiled to critically imperiled."

23 areas of critical habitat

B.C. habitat identified as critical for the Pacific Water Shrew's includes:

- Burnaby Lake

- Thunderbird Creek, Squamish

- Bear Island, Seymour Reservoir

- River Road and 80th Street, Delta

- North Hoy Creek, Coquitlam

- Widgeon Creek, Coquitlam

- MacIntyre Creek, Coquitlam

- Fraser Heights and Highway 1, Surrey

- Fraser Heights and S. Perimeter Road, Surrey

- Highway 10, B.C., Surrey

- Fergus Creek, White Rock

- Aldergrove

- Davis Creek, Fraser Valley Electoral Area F

- Matsqui

- South Clayburn and Stoney Creeks, Abbotsford

- Fin Creek, Fraser Valley Electoral Area E

- Smith Falls, Fraser Valley Electoral Area E

- Harrison Lake - Wolf Lake, Fraser Valley Electoral Area C

- Elk River, Chilliwack

- Miami Slough, Harrison Hot Springs & Agasssiz, B.C.

- Chiliwack View Road

- Alouette River — Golden Pond

- Cheam Wetland, Fraser Valley Electoral Area D

Consult the federal recovery strategy report for detailed maps outlining the boundaries of the above 23 habitat areas.

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