ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The federal government is proposing to add a rare salamander found only in northern New Mexico to the endangered species list.
The proposal unveiled Tuesday highlights questions about how many Jemez Mountain salamanders still exist following changes to its moist forested climate and back-to-back years of wildfire and drought.
Researchers spent the last three weeks using a team of specially trained dogs to help sniff out populations of the salamanders in an effort to learn more about what makes the tiny creatures tick.
The salamanders breathe through their skin and spend much of their lives underground.
Aside from the listing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing setting aside more than 140 square miles in three New Mexico counties as critical habitat for the salamander.
Environmentalists have been pushing for salamander protections for two decades.