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Salamander mussel found in Pennsylvania facing extinction

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CBS News Pittsburgh Live

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The federal government is proposing listing the salamander mussel, which is found in Pennsylvania, as endangered.

The salamander mussel has only 66 known existing populations across its range from New York southwest to Arkansas, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said according to a species status report, it's facing extinction. 

More than 80 percent of its populations are at high risk from one or more primary threats, and none are experiencing low risk, the agency said. 

"Our review of the salamander mussel's status identified several primary threats including contaminants, changes in water flow, landscape alteration, invasive species and risks to the salamander mussel's host species, the mudpuppy, which plays a vital role in the mussel's life cycle," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release. 

The agency is also proposing designating more than 2,000 miles of rivers in 37 units as critical habitat, which is an area that contains essential habitat features for the survival and recovery of a listed species. 

The salamander mussel is a small, thin-shelled freshwater mussel that inhabits swift-flowing rivers and streams with areas of shelter under rocks or in crevices, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Water quality tends to be good where freshwater mussels are thriving, but where they're declining, it's an indication that the rivers and streams they inhabit may be unhealthy. 

The agency is seeking public comment during a 60-day period that closes on Oct. 23. 

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