Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Endangered Delmarva Squirrel

I found the following information on line here.

"This large, slate gray tree squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) has an unusually full, fluffy tail and white belly.  Larger than common gray squirrels, this fox squirrel subspecies measures up to 28 inches long and weighs up to three pounds.   Once found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula, the range was reduced to 10 percent of the original size at the time of listing, and it only occurred in three counties and a small island in one other county.  Populations of the Delmarva fox squirrel now occur naturally in portions of Queen Anne's Talbot, Dorchester and Caroline Counties in Maryland, and southwestern Sussex County, Delaware.  Together with successful translocated populations, the current distribution now includes eight counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (all but Cecil) and Sussex County, Delaware and Accomack County, Virginia.  The Delmarva fox squirrel inhabits mature forest of mixed hardwoods and pines in the agricultural landscapes of the Delmarva Peninsula.  The mature trees provide higher abundance of acorns and other foods and provide den sites as well.  Mature forest tracks along rivers, streams and bays are also used."

If you have been following my blog for a while you will know that I am one who loves to occasionally post about the squirrels we have in our garden.   I have always had a fascination for them, though I know many see them as complete pests.  I on the other hand consider them a welcome visitor, even though they tend to hog the bird feeders.  I try to have food enough for both birds and squirrels but yes I know, they are voracious and can eat you out of a week's supply of birdseed.  Still......

Last week Gregg and I went on an unplanned road trip when Gregg suddenly found himself with a light work load.  These don't happen but rarely, we threw some things into a bag and were on the road in a very short space of time, with not much thought given to where we wanted to go but one of the places we visited was the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  It is 207 miles away from home if you went there directly and as many of you may already know, it is famous for wild ponies and these are what we were hoping to see.  On a previous visit several years ago we were not  very successful, except for specks in the distance that we knew were those wild ponies.  This time they weren't as far away and we did actually see them.  However, they were still too far out there to get a decent photo but not to worry, throughout our visit we saw enough birds and other animals to last us a lifetime.  It was a very enjoyable trip.

When we were walking into the reserve we met a photographer with camera and tripod swung over his shoulder.  He was heading to his car. Gregg asked him if he had seen any ponies and he had but shrugged and said "not very close up".  He was however very excited to tell us that he had taken several very good photos of the Delmarva Fox Squirrel.  We listened with interest as he described his experience and we thanked him.  Neither of us had heard of these endangered squirrels before and to be perfectly frank, didn't think much else about it as we were focused on those wild ponies.

We had a real nice hike along the trail to the look-out point, and there they were but 'way out there'.  Still, closer than they had been on our last trip and satisfied after taking a couple of souvenir photos (at least we saw something) we started back to where we had parked the car.  For us the enjoyment is in the journey and a good walk along any trail is always a very enjoyable experience.  We were almost to the end when out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in the forest.  We are always on the look-out for anything interesting.  Gregg is the best spotter and a quick grab of the arm and a wide-eyed stare at the other is our signal.  This time I grabbed Gregg's arm and we both stopped in our tracks.  Wild ponies?  Not exactly but just off the pathway I peered into the underbrush and the first thing I saw was an eye staring back at me.  There was a small animal digging into the pine needles.   It was the endangered Delmarva Squirrel and yes, this is where my love of squirrels comes in because I was just as excited to see this little one as I would have been if it had been a pony.  Yes I know, I am a little nutty that way.  He posed beautifully for us and I took several photos of him munching on a pine cone.  It was a lovely experience to see this cute little guy and this is how much both of us enjoy our squirrels. It was of course made even more interesting by the fact that we were seeing a type we had never seen or heard of before.  Our curiosity had been peaked and I silently thanked the photographer for making us aware, as we probably wouldn't have paid as much attention otherwise, thinking of him as just another squirrel cute as he was.  But as we often learn in life, you have to have the right mind set.  A love for all things in nature also helps as it can take you on a wonderful journey and I am not just talking about miles here.

 You can read all about this little squirrel here if you would like to learn more, and if you click here you can read about the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

I think we were very lucky that day.  The photographer had said they were hard to see, but we saw two more after that, only one of which I was able to get photos of.  The other one didn't like having his privacy invaded and scurried off into the forest.