Bay Journal

Delmarva fox squirrel no longer “endangered”

Population strong enough, so it's off the endangered species list

  • By Rona Kobell on September 19, 2014
A Delmarva fox squirrel runs across a tree in a backyard in Girdletree, Worcester County, Maryland (Mary Shultz Goldhagen)

The Delmarva Fox squirrel, which has been listed as an endangered species since 1967, is coming off the list.

The squirrel, which has slowly been reappearing in the forests and farmlands of the Eastern Shore after an aggressive transfer program, has recovered enough for wildlife officials to declare it no longer endangered.

Officials gathered to make the announcement Friday at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge outside of Cambridge, where the squirrels still have a population and where many of their brethren were relocated from private lands.

One man, Guy Willey Sr., was responsible for most of that relocation, according to The Baltimore’s Sun’s Tim Wheeler. Willey negotiated with many farmers and landowners to let him trap the squirrels on their property and deliver them to places where they would be safe from possible hunters, car accidents or other death threats.

In recent years, there have been anecdotal sightings of the squirrel in the Pocomoke area and around Cambridge. Wildlife officials estimate that the population is 28 percent recovered.

Announcing the de-listing were Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as well as Gov. Martin O’Malley and Maryland U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin. It’s rare for a species to be returned and restored; in Maryland and elsewhere, many species are heading in the other direction. While eagles came off the endangered list in 2007, to great fanfare, the Chesapeake Bay’s sturgeon were put on the list last year. There has been a push to list the American eel, still seen here but all but gone from the Great Lakes.

Despite the jubilation at today’s ceremony, Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage Director Ned Garber doesn’t think the recovery warrant the de-listing, which will strip the species of its highest level of protection.

"If you thought you had a 28 percent chance of passing an exam or of holding onto your job, you [wouldn't] say, 'Hey, this is Easy Street!'" Gerber told The Sun. "It's too soon."

The Delmarva fox squirrel prefers large, mature forests, where it stays low to the ground a lot of the time and sleeps long nights. It can grow up to 30 inches long and weigh up to 3 pounds. Its tail can reach 15 inches. It’s usually a lighter gray than the gray squirrel.

Many of its prime Eastern Shore habitats were lost to logging and development. Efforts to return the squirrel to Delaware haven’t been as successful, and Delaware wildlife officials pledged to keep an eye on the populations there.

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About Rona Kobell

Rona Kobell is a former writer for the Baltimore Sun. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Read more articles by Rona Kobell

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