Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico kids are discovering new species of rodents

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The Bosque School students learn a lot about the wildlife and the environment as the school is actually behind the Bosque. A student recently made a really important discovery in a biology class. The bristly cotton rat was never seen in Bernalillo County until Bosque School student Dylan Jenkins found one on campus.

Since it’s basically their backyard, Bosque School’s biology and conservation teacher Dan Shaw likes to take his students outside of the classroom. During a class in August, his students were checking lizard traps when Jenkins noticed something else in the bushes.

“One of my students, Dylan, looked over here behind us and said, ‘Mr. Shaw, I think there’s an animal over there, and it actually took a lot to focus on. I finally saw what he was talking about and I thought it looked like a tiny cotton rat on its stomach, ”Shaw said.

So you wanted to take a closer look. “So we set up a trap, pretty much they go in, trigger a trigger and it closes the trash can and they have some cotton and food to keep them busy, so we go out and work it up and see how much they weigh , see if they have distinctive features. We remember that and all of this data is used, ”said Ella Adams, a student at Bosque School.

Little did they know they had caught a species that has never been recorded in Bernalillo County. “So this is the bristly cotton rat, and it’s a common animal in the southwest, but it’s not known to come that far north on a regular basis. So it immigrated to Bernalillo County and Dylan was the first to document it, ”Shaw said.

They sent their results to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, which they confirmed and incorporated the discovery into a scientific database.

“BISON-M is basically a huge database of over 6,000 species in New Mexico. The ability to add a new county record to this database is a living database, and the fact that it’s from students in particular makes it even better, ”said Ginny Seamster of Game and Fish.

The school prides itself on the discovery and students say they are grateful to have the Bosque as a classroom. “I think it’s really amazing to have this opportunity to take advantage of the Bosque and use it through the lens of conservation. It’s really important that our campus is right here so we can see what’s going on behind us instead of just looking at it as a pretty place, ”said Adams.

Shaw says his students have so far caught at least three of the bristly cotton rats. The rat has been sighted throughout southern New Mexico and Valencia County. Game and Fish says the discovery of the species in Bernalillo County could shed some light on why it might move north.

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