West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel
Squirrel lovers around the United States are confused.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the West Virginia northern flying squirrel no longer faces the threat of extinction, and removed it from the endangered species list.
The Center for Biological Diversity reports,
"The squirrel was declared recovered despite the fact that it has yet to meet recovery goals in a recovery plan that was developed by the world's leading experts on the squirrel's biology and status, and that scientists have been raising alarm bells about the increasing threat of climate change related to anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."
Recognized as a distinct subspecies of the more general northern flying squirrel, the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrels were first placed on the endangered species list in 1985.
In their area, they also compete for habitat with the southern flying squirrel. At the time of the listing only 10 squirrels were found in four separate sites. The most recent survey taken in 2006 found over 1,100 squirrels residing in 100 different sites.
Contrary to the name, no flying squirrel, including the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel, actually flies. Instead, with the aid of a layer of fur between their arms and legs which can be used like a parachute when pulled tight, they can glide from branch to branch and tree to tree.
Physically, they are small animals with a soft fur which is brown on the top and gray underneath. Individuals are about a foot long, half of which is the broad, flat tail. Biologists are unsure of their breeding habits but speculate that females produce one litter per year with about four babies per litter.
Unlike other squirrels, West Virginia northern flying squirrels remain active in the winter. Their large, dark eyes enable these squirrels to see in low light. During the night, the squirrels are very active moving among trees and on the ground.
Also contrary to typical squirrel behavior, the West Virginia northern flying squirrel prefers a lichen and fungi diet over a predominantly nut diet.
© 2006-2008. Patricia A. Michaels.