On November 16, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule (pdf) removing the Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) from the list of endangered and threatened species.  Following its 2012 review of the species, the Service concluded that the best available scientific and commercial data indicate the Delmarva fox squirrel is no longer in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

The Service credits the Delmarva fox squirrel’s recovery primarily to the establishment of new populations of the species through translocations and the overall growth of the range-wide population.  Additionally, the Service concluded that populations have enough suitable habitat to continue expansion and movement between populations.  It also noted that the closing of a Delmarva fox squirrel hunting season reduced mortality and probably enabled populations in some areas to rebuild.

Delmarva fox squirrels occur over a large area and occupy a variety of mature forest types.  Populations of the species now span 10 counties, with a majority residing in Maryland.  More than 80 percent of the species’ home is on private land, so, according to the Service, residents of the Delmarva Peninsula played a major role in the species’ recovery.  In addition, many state laws and programs protect large areas of the species habitat.

States will resume leadership for conservation of the Delmarva fox squirrel.  The species is listed as endangered in Delaware, which has developed a plan to provide for a coordinated framework for conservation actions to increase squirrel populations.  Virginia is anticipated to leave the species’ state listing status as endangered.  Maryland expects to reclassify the Delmarva fox squirrel as a “Species in Need of Conservation.”

The delisting rule includes a Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan that outlines how the Service and its partners will monitor the species’ populations to ensure they do not decline and require re-listing.  The rule is effective December 16, 2015.