The Loh Down On Science

Fleeing Critters

Michigan's wildlife heads for the Great White North.

Maple syrup, stronger beer – what's not to like aboot our Canadian neighbors, eh?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying the Great White North indeed looks tempting... for Michigan's smaller mammals. So say researchers at the University of Michigan.

What's has the critters Quebec-bound? Global warming.

Michigan's regional temperatures have increased significantly over the past 38 years. Average daily lows in the Upper Peninsula have risen almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

So small mammals like mice, chipmunks, and voles are hittin' the road, headed north – where they're breeding like, well, rodents, and replacing their northern counterparts.

To chart the mammals' changing ranges over time, scientists analyzed a hundred years of trapping records, museum specimen collections – even road-kill reports.

This revealed the changing distribution and abundance of 50,000 critters, representing nine small-mammal species.

All are ecologically important – they disperse seeds, eat pesky insects, get eaten themselves by large predators. So their loss from southern areas? Not good.

Their impact on northern species?

Researchers don't know yet, but our guess is weakened Canadian hockey Little Leagues. Chipmunk leagues, you know!


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