Delmarva Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus)
The Delmarva Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest out of ten subspecies of fox squirrels, and is recognized often by its dark gray color.
The Delmarva Fox Squirrel prefers open forests with little understory and quiet wooded areas, especially mature loblolly pine and hardwood forests. Delmarva Fox Squirrels are regularly found in smaller stands of old timber and is also found in woodlots near farm fields and groves of trees near water. It spends most of its time on the ground, rather than in trees like the common gray squirrel. Represented by ten subspecies and found only in small isolated populations on the Delmarva Peninsula, range extended the eastern two-thirds of the United States from western New York to Florida and from Mexico to Canada. The historic range of subspecies in Pennsylvania included the southeastern corner of the state.
The Delmarva Fox squirrel mostly feeds on seeds of oak, pine, beech, walnut, and hickory. These squirrels will also eat parts of animals if it is available. One characteristic the Delmarva Fox Squirrel shares with the common gray squirrel is that they both hoard much of their food individually. When the weather changes to spring the Delmarva Fox Squirrel will also eats different buds and flowers because of a shortage of food.
The reproductive season for Delmarva fox squirrels lasts from the end of the winter into the beginning of the spring each year. Litter sizes can range from one to seven, the pregnancy usually lasts forty-four to forty-five days. The weaning process occurs ten weeks after birth. The birth will occur in a den in the tree hollow and after born can live up to six years.
The Delmarva Fox Squirrel was listed as an endangered species in 1967 in which the population fell to 10 percent of its historic range, confined mostly to remote areas of Virginia because of habitat loss and hunting pressure. Humans are the major cause of this squirrel being endangered due to agricultural expansion, and more human development. Another factor posing threats to the Delmarva Fox Squirrel are predation risks, traffic mortality, and competition from the common gray squirrel.
The Delmarva Fox Squirrel is most likely extirpated from Pennsylvania so there is no plan currently to conserve or monitor it. However in other states such as Delaware the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, has issued a conservation plan. Their goal was to advance the recovery of Delmarva Fox Squirrel's in Delaware without causing regulatory burdens often associated with endangered species. A translocation plan will be used to bring squirrels into unoccupied habitat that meets the criteria for long-term Delmarva Fox Squirrel's population viability. The specific goals for Delmarva Fox Squirrel’s populations in Delaware are to double the distribution of squirrels by adding them to a minimum of two new locations in Sussex County, increase the occupied habitat by a minimum of 900 acres to ensure that all populations are secure.
Regionally, the fox squirrel's recovery has been impressive, aided by the government protections, changes in area forest use and the lack of hunting. The regional population of fox squirrels has increased from that 10 percent figure in 1967 to 28 percent.
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