Defenders Joins Local Group to Protect Endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel

(11/25/1997) - Defenders of Wildlife today joined Queen Anne's Conservation Association in Maryland in notifying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of their intent to sue for protection of the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In particular, the groups charge that the FWS has systematically failed to address the ongoing loss and fragmentation of the Delmarva fox squirrel's forest habitat resulting from commercial and residential development.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly ignored our requests to develop a comprehensive conservation plan to address the continued piecemeal destruction of endangered Delmarva fox squirrel habitat," said Queens Anne's Conservation Association President Ned Gerber. "All we want is for the FWS to acknowledge existing threats to the species' survival and recovery, and to work cooperatively with us on a credible strategy for dealing with those threats." Queen Anne's County is one of only four counties in Maryland where Delmarva fox squirrels remain.

Delmarva fox squirrel habitat occurs primarily on private lands, where the federal government is often reluctant to enforce the ESA's regulatory provisions. The Clinton Administration, however, has actively promoted a number of initiatives intended to improve the effectiveness of the ESA on private lands by engaging private landowners more in endangered species conservation. None of these initiatives apparently have been utilized to promote the conservation of fox squirrel habitat.

Michael Senatore, legislative counsel at Defenders of Wildlife said, "With all the new ESA private lands initiatives being promoted by the Clinton Administration, there is absolutely no excuse for the FWS' failure to even attempt to effectively address the illegal destruction of the Delmarva fox squirrel and its habitat. This is a clear example of the federal government abdicating its responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act."

The Delmarva fox squirrel is unusually large, averaging two-and-a-half to three pounds. It is twice as large as the common gray squirrel. The light, whitish-gray coat of the Delmarva is also a distinguishing characteristic. The feet are white and the tail has a pronounced black stripe on the outer edge.

The squirrel was originally found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula in Eastern Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. Listed as endangered by the FWS in 1967, the current population is confined to portions of four Maryland counties, representing less than 10 percent of the species' historic range. Typical habitats for the Delmarva fox squirrel include mixed stands of mature hardwoods, groves of trees along streams and bays, small woodlots and agricultural fields.

In a separate letter, Queen Anne's Conservation Association and Defenders of Wildlife today also notified the FWS, the Queen Anne's County Planning Commission and a private developer of their intent to sue under the ESA if efforts are not made to sufficiently address threats to the fox squirrel from the planned Wye Knot Farms subdivision development in Queen Anne's County, Maryland.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270