West Virginia Squirrel Off Endangered List

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced Aug. 25 that the West Virginia northern flying squirrel has recovered from the brink of extinction and will be removed from Endangered Species Act protection. The species' rebound can be attributed to a combination of conservation efforts and regeneration of the flying squirrel's forest habitat.

The U.S. Forest Service, through its management of the Monongahela National Forest and George Washington National Forest, played a major role in protecting the forest ecosystem critical to the squirrel's survival. In addition, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station conducted studies that provided the scientific foundation for delisting the squirrel. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also assisted in monitoring the squirrel.

"Based on data from more than 20 years of monitoring the squirrel's presence in the forest, as well as the completion of extensive habitat analysis, our scientists are confident that the squirrel has recovered to the point where it no longer requires federal protection." Kempthorne said.

The West Virginia northern flying squirrel, formerly known as the Virginia northern flying squirrel, depends upon the forest ecosystem in the Allegheny highlands of West Virginia and Virginia.

In 1985, when the species was first protected as endangered, only 10 flying squirrels in four separate areas were located. Biologists determined that habitat loss, human disturbance, and competition with the more common southern flying squirrel threatened the existence of the species.

Since that time, threats have been eliminated or largely minimized, and the squirrel distribution has grown dramatically. By the end of 2006, biologists had captured more than 1,200 squirrels at 109 sites throughout much of its historic range.

In October 2007, the Service published a draft plan for monitoring the flying squirrel after it is delisted. The final plan, other information about the squirrel, and links to all the pertinent documents are available at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/wvnfsq.html.

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