The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently decided that after nearly 5 decades, Delmarva fox squirrel is no longer endangered. The species would be removed from the Endangered Species List in December, wildlife officials said.
Yet, the move has been in the works for some time now since the furry animal was one of the first species to be put on the list in 1967. Back then, an older version of the Endangered Species Act featured the squirrel and 77 more species as endangered.
With 15 inches or 38 cm in length, leaving aside the tail, Delmarva fox squirrels are the largest cousins of regular gray squirrels. Their tails can grow as large as their bodies, and adults can usually weigh 3 pounds or 1.36 kilos.
Biologists explained that these squirrels are the largest of their kind and they are rarely seen around the cities or in the suburbs. They favorite places to dwell are the country side, heavily forested areas, and crop fields.
Until the mid-20th-century, the squirrels thrived on the Delmarva Peninsula in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. But intense agricultural activities and timber industry that required cutting down trees and reckless hunting pushed the animals toward the brink of extinction.
Nowadays, however, the squirrels seem to have made a comeback and they no longer require federal protection. The FWS recently said that the animal’s range is now larger than it used to be in 1967 since it has expanded from four counties to ten.
Conservationists estimate that Delmarva fox squirrel population currently has 20,000 members that live on 30 percent of the peninsula. FWS experts said that the simple move of putting the animal on the Endangered Species List put it back on the map.
Michael Bean from the U.S. Department of the Interior explained that the Endangered Species Act allows the federal government, states, and landowners to join forces to help endangered or threatened species recover, while also promoting sustainable local economies.
Bean was pleased with the work done by authorities in the three states that host the squirrels and their partners that closely worked together to “make this day possible.” Although the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel is more visible on the Maryland part of the peninsula in Blackwater, it can also be spotted in Delaware’s Prime Hook and Virginia’s Chincoteague Virginia natural preserves, the FWS announced.
Nevertheless, the fluffy-tailed animal’s historic range also included the southeastern parts of Pennsylvania and southern forested areas in New Jersey. Officials didn’t mention whether the squirrel population would be restored in those ranges, too.
Image Source: Flickr
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