From the Delmarva fox squirrel’s brush with extinction to a journey for recovery

Delmarva fox squirrel caught on remotely triggered camera. Courtesy of Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

Safe to assume most of us have probably seen a gray squirrel bouncing around our backyard bird feeders or local parks. But if you’ve visited Chincoteague, Prime Hook or Blackwater national wildlife refuges, you may have been lucky enough to see the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel.

Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel on the left. The eastern gray squirrel is on the right. Credit: Richard Webster/USFWS

Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel on the left. The eastern gray squirrel is on the right. Credit: Richard Webster/USFWS

This tree squirrel with frosty silver-gray fur is much larger than the gray squirrel, and catching a glimpse of it within the forests of the peninsula connecting Delaware, Maryland and Virginia was once extremely rare.

Where are we today?

By the time it was protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1967, the Delmarva fox squirrel could only be found in a handful of counties on peninsula Maryland—just 10 percent of its historic range.

The squirrel’s decline in the mid-1900s was fueled by the combination of factors. As forests were cleared for farms and development, the squirrel’s habitat decreased. In addition, timber harvests on short cycles decreased the amount of mature woodlands needed by the Delmarva fox squirrel. Over-hunting of fox squirrels may have also played a role in its decline.

Now, after 45 years of coordinated efforts to boost populations and conserve habitat, the future looks bright for this fox squirrel. Today the squirrel’s range has increased to 10 counties, with a current population of up to 20,000. Check out the rest of this endangered species success story!

So even if you don’t see one on your visit to one of the wildlife refuges, be on the look out in the woods and field edges throughout its range.

Check out other stories of endangered plant and animal conservation in the Northeast – We’re sharing them throughout the year!

More information on the squirrel, and a story about its recovery on Chincoteague, Prime Hook and Blackwater national wildlife refuges.

One Comment on “From the Delmarva fox squirrel’s brush with extinction to a journey for recovery

  1. Pingback: Celebrate Endangered Species Day Today | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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