It has been in the works for the past two decades, but the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel is now recovering to the relief of conservationists who have been struggling to provide better living conditions for the animal.
- The Delmarva fox squirrel population dropped by 90% in the middle of 20th century
- In 1977, they were placed on the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
- In the past 20 years, officials state that their numbers now stand at a stable 20,000
- Their population will still be monitored for the next 5 years
Due to rigorous efforts, the U.S. Department of Interior was glad to announce that their species will be removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The oversized grey squirrels have been brought back from the edge of extinction. Now, their numbers are recovering in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
Around fifty years ago, the Delmarva fox squirrel saw to a rapid and dramatic decline. Their natural habitat that includes old woodland was destroyed in favor of home development and farming lands. This has seen to an unfortunate disruption of their lives, along with the matter of overhunting.
Their species can grow up to 30 inches in length, and weigh around 3 pounds, with silver grey fur. The large size of the squirrels made them easier targets, and much more tempting than their normal-sized grey cousins.
As such, around the middle of the 20th century, their numbers dropped drastically by 90%, which earned them a place on the ESA in 1977. Since then, conservationists have been trying to bring their population back up. And, in the past 20 years, their efforts started bearing fruit. From the meager 10% of them left, the U.S. Fish And Wildlife are glad to report that there are now 20,000 Delmarva fox squirrels in the wild.
Both conservationists and landowners have protected forest areas, expanded their potential habitat, and catching the oversized squirrels to then move them further where they might thrive. According to Kara Coats, from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, however, the numbers in Delaware are still rather low.
While the species have been removed from ESA, and their numbers are seeing an optimistic improvement, their supervision will continue for the next 5 years. Now is not the time to let the progress slip right through their hands. The state’s ambitions imply doubling the number of the locations where the Delmarva fox squirrels are found.
So far, there are two pockets across Delaware, at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, and at Nanticoke State Wildlife Area. State officials hope that they could also build wildlife corridors around public land holdings.
As stated by Coats, this is “an exciting milestone”, and it proves that the protection of the ESA can be successful and beneficial for the survival of the species. It requires a lot of cooperation among the U.S. FWS and landowners or other conservationist groups, but it can be done.
Image source: flickr.com