Officials remove the Delmarva fox squirrel from Endangered Species List
The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel was placed on the first Endangered Species List back in 1967. On Friday morning, officials announced that they are taking the squirrel off the list.
The gray, fluffy Delmarva fox squirrel likes forests, especially old trees with crevices to crawl into. But early in the 20th century, a combination of hunting, timber harvesting and forest-clearing for agriculture tanked their numbers.
At one point, the squirrel was only found in four counties, all in Maryland.
But now their numbers have rebounded, thanks to conservation efforts that involved closure of the hunting season and translocation, or moving the animals to give their population a broader range.
Last year, federal officials declared that the squirrel was no longer endangered. After gathering and responding to community feedback on the species, the Delmarva Fox Squirrel was removed from the Endangered Species List.
The Delmarva fox squirrel now has a population of up to 20,000, covering 28 percent of the peninsula.
“This animal is now sufficiently abundant and distributed widely enough to be able to withstand threats and still thrive," said Cherry Keller, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Though it still resides mostly in Maryland, they can be found in Delaware in places like the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge or the Nanticoke Wildlife Management Area. But Keller says you have to look really hard.
“These are secretive animals. Even when they’re super abundant you could walk through the woods and not see a squirrel," said Keller.
But federal and state officials will still keep a watchful eye on the squirrel. DNREC plans to work on connecting their populations in Sussex County. And the Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor the squirrel for five years after its de-listing, as required by the Endangered Species Act.