Daily Archives: October 22, 2014

Delmarva Fox Squirrel officially recovered

By National Wildlife Refuge Association

Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend

Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend

Great news! On September 19 Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe announced at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist the Delmarva Fox Squirrel. This is the 52nd species to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. The species was listed in 1967 due to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting in their native range.

“It takes a real village to protect a squirrel,” said Jewell at the announcement, noting the many partners who banded together to help with recovery efforts. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, and Gov. Martin O’Malley also attended, thanking the community members and private landowners who worked together to protect wildlife and the local forest economy.

These cute fluffy critters were once found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula. Unfortunately, at the time of listing, their range had been reduced to 10% of its original size and only occurred in three counties and a small island in one other county. This was due in large part to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting. The squirrels need mature trees for den sites as well as for a food source: mature trees provide more acorns.

Recovery efforts for this wonderful little creature began in 1945 when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources bought LeCompte Wildlife Management Area in DorchesterCounty. In 1971, legal hunting of the squirrel was banned. And then after the listing of the species, the Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel Recovery Team began to work with the State on conservation efforts including reintroduction of the species into counties where it was originally found.

Over 10 years later, 11 out of the 16 reintroduced populations are succeeding. The Delmarva Fox Squirrel is primarily found on privately owned land and can thrive in a landscape that is managed for farming and sustainable timber harvest. Uncut corn or soybeans along hedgerows can be left for the squirrel’s winter food provided by the farmers. Developers and timber harvesters also help the squirrel by leaving woodlot trees that produce nuts, seeds, and berries and also provide corridors from one woodlot to another.

Thanks to the wonderful efforts of these private landowners, the state of Maryland, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of this squirrel is finally high enough to be taken off the endangered species list since it has been fully recovered.

For more information see these resources:

Fact sheet from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Species information from the Chesapeake Bay Program 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Profile

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Species Profile

Conservation funding issues on Nov. 4 ballots

From Wildlife Management Instituteimage001

On Election Day this year, a number of state and local conservation funding initiatives will be on the ballot for voters to consider with the potential of over $25 billion being dedicated for conservation and restoration. The largest initiatives in Florida, New Jersey, North Dakota, California and Maine bring a variety of opportunities for funding land conservation, water quality and outdoor recreation. But support for these initiatives also vary with opponents like state chambers of commerce actively working against some of the efforts, reports the Wildlife Management Institute.

By far the largest initiative is being considered in Florida where an estimated $18 billion is at stake. Amendment 1 is a constitutional amendment that would dedicate 33 percent of annual revenue raised through an existing tax on real estate transactions over the next 20 years to conservation projects. While the state has had bipartisan support for conservation spending, appropriations have declined dramatically in recent years undermining efforts for land conservation and Everglades restoration. Amendment 1 would fund the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including: wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites. The amendment requires a 60 percent supermajority vote in support to be approved and is broadly supported by diverse organizations. While the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau and other groups oppose the initiative, current polling suggests that it is receiving strong support from voters.

New Jersey is also considering a constitutional amendment for long-term, dedicated funding for a variety of environmental and conservation programs. The state has a long history of support at the ballot for programs like the state’s Green Acres land preservation efforts. However, this is the first time the state is seeking dedicated funding that is estimated to total $2.15 billion over the next 20 years to acquire land prone to flooding, protect natural areas, farmland and watersheds, and provide for parks, historic preservation, underground storage tank removal and brownfield remediation. If approved, Public Question #2 will reallocate 4 percent of an existing state corporate business tax for an estimated $71 million annually for the first four years, and beginning in 2019, it would dedicate an additional 2 percent of business tax revenues increasing the annual funding to $117 million. While municipalities, counties and agricultural boards across the state generally support the amendment, Americans for Prosperity has led opposition against the amendment along with the state’s governor, Chris Christie.

In North Dakota, the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks constitutional amendment, Measure 5, would dedicate 5 percent of tax revenue from oil development for conservation and recreation over the next 25 years. Funds would be used for water quality, natural flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, parks and outdoor recreation areas, access for hunting and fishing, the acquisition of land for parks, and outdoor education for children. While North Dakota has seen dramatic losses of prairie habitat in recent years, this initiative is receiving the greatest opposition from business interests including the American Petroleum Institute, the Chamber of Commerce and state agricultural interests who claim that farmlands would be purchased to take them out of production. However, the amendment does not change the North Dakota Corporate Farming Law that prohibits most conservation groups from buying land without governor approval.

“My family has always prided itself on having a strong conservation ethic. Conservation programs funded through Measure 5 will be 100 percent voluntary and could benefit all farming and ranching operations in North Dakota if producers wish to take part. Producers could use grant dollars for things like buffers along waterways, cover crops to advance soil health, enhanced grazing systems, and improved wildlife habitat on marginal areas,” said Gabe Brown, an agricultural producer supporting the amendment. “The fact is, Measure 5 will benefit family farms and ranches across North Dakota.”

Both California and Maine are considering bonds that will improve the states’ water infrastructure. California will be considering a $7.5 billion bond for watershed protection and restoration, forest health, wetland habitat and for additional water storage. Proposition 1 would make improvements to a water system that has been significantly impacted by the current drought in the state. In Maine, Question 6 would create a $10 million bond to fund natural and built infrastructure to reduce threats to the state’s water resources, improve stormwater management, and conserve habitat for recreational fisheries, waterfowl, and aquatic and other wildlife species.

In addition to the statewide ballot initiatives, a number of counties and local communities are also considering conservation funding proposals. This includes Los Angeles County, California; Portland, Oregon; Missoula, Montana, Larimer County, Colorado; Benton County,Washington; Bernalillo County, New Mexico, and Beaufort County, South Carolina. In total there are 39 measures being tracked by The Trust for PublicLand’s Land Vote this election season.

Woolly bear caterpillars

Woolly bear caterpillars by http://www.johnashleyfineart.com

Woolly bear caterpillars by http://www.johnashleyfineart.com

Woolly bear Caterpillar   Photo credit: JohnAshley.com

The Woolly bear caterpillar is the easily recognized larva of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia Isabella). In the Fall, the Woolly Bear begins its life as a tiny egg that hatches into a caterpillar. This Woolly bear caterpillar is black at both ends, usually with a reddish orange midsection. This colorful two toned sweater is composed of setae (bristles) radiating away from the body. The bristles form tufts emanating from the 13 segments of the body. The number of black setae increases and the reddish orange central band diminishes as the Woolly bear matures. Folklore that the relative width of these black and reddish copper bands along the Woolly Bear’s body is a predictor of how harsh the winter will be has been disproven. The setae of the Woolly Bear caterpillar do not inject venom or histamine that causes pain or itching, although some people may develop mild dermatitis after handling them. To defend itself, the Woolly bear will role up into a ball when handled. The Woolly bear is a herbivore that feeds on grass, clover, plantain, dandelion, spinach and cabbage.

It can survive the winter because it produces a cryoprotectant to prevent its tissues from being damaged by sub zero temperatures. In the spring it thaws out and grows some more. After enough growth, the caterpillar begins pupation by spinning a cocoon around itself made of silk and its own body hairs. After metamorphosing within the pupa, it emerges in the spring as the Isabella Tiger Moth. The moth’s wings are a muted yellow color with a few scattered black spots. The moth has only a few days to find a mate and lay eggs. The resulting caterpillars will hibernate (freeze) over the winter and renew their life cycle.

To view the Woolly bear caterpillar constructing its cocoon visit