Posted tagged ‘Delmarva Fox squirrel’

Top Five Posts of 2012

December 30, 2012

Our end of year countdown continues with the top five stories, written in 2012, on Out Walking the Dog.  For the first half of the top ten stories, covering coyotes, red-tailed hawks, NYC dogs, and feral cats, visit Top Posts of 2012, Part One.)

Click on each title to go to the original post. Enjoy!

Delmarva Fox Squirrel, photo by Mary Shultz.

Delmarva Fox Squirrel. Photo: Mary Shultz.

5. The Endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel was inspired by my friend Mary’s sightings and photographs of an unusually big and beautiful squirrel on her property on the eastern shore of Maryland. I had never before heard of the species, which turns out to be the biggest tree squirrel in North America. Of course, I had barely heard of Delmarva, the long peninsula that belongs to Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and includes the islands of Chincoteague and Assoteague, where the famous ponies run. Now I hope to travel down to Delmarva in 2013 to see its horses and squirrels for myself.

Photo: WCBV

Photo: WCBV

4. A Black Bear Comes to Provincetown! Black bears are increasingly seen all over the northeast, including New York and New Jersey. And bears, as some hairy, masculine gay men call themselves, are long-time regular visitors and residents in Provincetown, Massachusetts. But the sight of an actual 200-pound black bear wandering around the narrow tip of Cape Cod was a notable wildlife sighting. The annual summer gathering known as Provincetown Bear Week was just a few weeks off, prompting many jokes about the young male bear being so eager to participate in the festivities that he arrived early.

Boston Globe.

Boston Globe.

8.  Hurricane Sandy Update: New York and Long Island.  As I watched Hurricane Sandy make a blur of  the world outside my New York City window, my brother rode out the storm at our family house on Long Island, providing eyewitness accounts of the flooding of our road, and of the interesting behavior of birds and foxes as the storm began.

Photo courtesy of Gigi A.

Photo courtesy of Gigi A.

9. Hunting for Central Park’s Black Squirrels.  After hearing repeatedly from people who spotted beautiful black squirrels in parks around the city, I became overwhelmed with the desire to see one for myself.  One day, following tips from other squirrel watchers, I set out to find one in Central Park. Black squirrels are actually a melanistic phase of NYC’s ubiquitous Gray squirrel, so a brief discussion of the natural history of the Gray squirrel is in order. Do I ever actually find a black squirrel?  You’ll just have to read the post to find out.

And the most-read post written in 2012 is …

Flying Point Beach. Photo: Andrew Cooper

Flying Point Beach. Photo: Andrew Cooper

10. Hurricane Sandy: Flying Point Road, Long Island Update. Written in the immediate aftermath of the great storm, this post describes a small stretch of road in eastern Long Island on which sits a one-time farmhouse that has belonged to my family since the 1960s. The once rural area is now home to mega-mansions, and building continues apace on every inch of available land. Global warming is effecting changes all along this once-rural coastal area that is now home to McMansions by the score.  Even now, development continues to gobble up the few remaining fields and marshlands, and houses perch on precarious ocean dunes and along the shore of the easily flooded bay. Photographs and video show the area during peaceful summer scenes as well as in the fury of the storm.

Thank you for visiting Out Walking the Dog in 2012. Here’s to 2013!

 

The Endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel

June 4, 2012

Endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel. Photo: Mary Shultz.

My friend Mary had a thrilling experience earlier this month when she spotted this Delmarva fox squirrel on her property on the eastern shore of Maryland.

Beautiful. Photo: Mary Shultz

You don’t know what a Delmarva fox squirrel is? Well, I didn’t either. In fact, not only had I never heard of Delmarva Fox squirrels, I had never heard of Delmarva until Mary called with her big news. The word incorporates the shorthand  for Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and refers to a large peninsula that runs along the eastern shore of the three states.

Delmarva Peninsula. Image: Worldatlas.com

The Delmarva Fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) is an endangered subspecies of fox squirrels (Sciurus niger). Its range once included southern portions of the border states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but it is now confined to Delmarva. So perhaps it’s not surprising that even though Mary grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland, she had never seen one. She described it as unmistakeable: huge (well, for a squirrel) and slower moving than Eastern gray squirrels, a pale silver in color with a lovely white belly, small ears and an enormous fluffy tail.  In fact, at three pounds and 30 inches long, Delmarva fox squirrels are easily twice the size of an average Eastern gray squirrel and a third larger than the Eastern fox squirrels I used to watch in Texas.

Delmarva Fox squirrel with an Eastern Gray squirrel. Photo: Mary Shultz.

Three pounds may not sound like much, but it makes for one hefty rodent.

The Delmarva Fox Squirrel is the biggest tree squirrel in North America.  Here’s the squirrel climbing up a large tree, its long tail pouring down behind.

Jumbo squirrel. Photo: Mary Shultz.

The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern shore has the largest native population of Delmarva fox squirrels. Here’s a video from Blackwater NWR of a gorgeous gray Delmarva Fox squirrel foraging for food. While it’s hard to get a sense of the size without another animal for comparison, you can clearly see the shape of the head, the stumpy ears and the long tail.  The squirrel also seems less twitchy than its smaller cousins, flowing quite gracefully over the ground.

Loss of habitat due to logging and development is the primary cause of population decline for the Delmarva squirrel, as it is for so many animals.

Nibbling. Photo: Mary Shultz.

Mary’s squirrel returned to the yard every day, sometimes twice a day, for a couple of weeks before disappearing. Mary and her husband also saw the squirrel feeding with a smaller Delmarva fox squirrel, leading them to suspect that she had been raising young nearby and that her companion was one of her babies.

Delmarva Fox Squirrel on the alert. Photo: Mary Shultz.

On a rainy day, the squirrel seemed to be using its tail as an umbrella, something I’ve read about but never seen.

Multi-purpose tail. Photo: Mary Shultz.

The squirrel hasn’t been spotted for some time now, and has probably moved on to a new foraging site. Hope she returns soon.

So long, pretty squirrel. Photo: Mary Shultz.


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