The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel is no longer at risk of extinction, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
USFWS will officially remove the squirrel from the list of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in December 2015.
The species was one of the animals included on the first list of endangered species nearly a half century ago.
Larger than other squirrel species and generally not found in suburban or urban areas, the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel ranged throughout the Delmarva Peninsula of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia before experiencing a sharp decline in the mid-20th century.
With its range reduced more than 90 percent, the squirrel was one of 78 species listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1967, the predecessor of the ESA enacted six years later.
Since listing, the squirrel’s range has increased from four to 10 counties, and a population of up to 20,000 squirrels now covers 28 percent of the Delmarva Peninsula, primarily in Maryland.
Efforts contributing to recovery include translocation of animals to establish new populations, closing of the targeted hunting season, growth and dispersal of the population, and protection of large forested areas for habitat.
Delmarva fox squirrels are common at Blackwater (Maryland), Chincoteague (Virginia), and Prime Hook (Delaware) national wildlife refuges.
Prior to its 2014 proposal to remove the squirrel from the endangered species list, FWS followed a rigorous and detailed process to assess the Delmarva fox squirrel’s extinction risk.
The agency’s 2012 five-year review analyzed the status of populations, habitat and threats, considered the delisting criteria from the 1993 recovery plan, and ultimately recommended to delist the species because it is no longer in danger of extinction. A post-delisting monitoring plan will ensure the squirrel remains secure from extinction.
source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service