Time is Ticking for the Flying Squirrel
~ Carmen Schwartz
You would never imagine that the squirrel population needs protection when you look out your porch doors and see them running up and down the trees outside, scurrying away from the cats, or stopping dead in their tracks when the dog barks and basically tries to climb up the trunk of the tree to make a new friend. But, in fact, there is a cute, cuddly – and seriously unique member of the squirrel family that’s been
having a tough time getting attention.
These are squirrels that soar. And, according to the experts, they are also the squirrel that has receive no help from the government. And
because of so many issues cropping up, they are now in serious danger of extinction. These squirrels fly in the mountains of California east of L.A., and are referred to as the San Bernardino flying squirrel.
Being a subspecies of the northern flying squirrel, conservationists just love these creatures. And to show that love, for approximately the last two decades, people have been trying with all their might to reach out to the U.S. government and get them protected under the Endangered Species Act. Yep. Two decades of fighting for the mysterious wonder. And now, after all this time, it seems that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has actually agreed to the fact that the species should be allowed protection…maybe. They issued a statement that they will recommend, either way, by April 2016 if the squirrel actually matters. Why does it take that long after already working on this for two decades? No idea.
They operate on the fact that to ‘save’ or ‘protect’ a species, calling it endangered, means scientists have to fully study how quickly ‘death’ may be coming for them. They do this by working on ecological needs, habitats being healthy or non-livable, and the behaviors of the creatures – assessing whether or not there is a real threat to the San Bernardino flying squirrel. Again, after two decades, you would think someone would have studied just that.
These gray-brown squirrels are created with those wing/skin flaps between their legs, giving them the ability to glide or do the normal squirrel ‘jump’ from tree to tree, but up to a 90 meter range. Dwelling exclusively in the San Bernardino Mountains, the squirrels are known to have been decreasing in number. They are no longer found jumping and flying in the San Jacinto Mountains, and being that their only remaining habitat is isolated by an actual desert, the range of the squirrel cannot be enlarged in any way.
The last survey done on these animals was back in the late 90’s, and the numbers were not good. Yes, they have threats against them; everything from quickly rising temps to fire-suppression studies and projects, as well as the slew of cats that choose to see the squirrel as a good meal to dine out on.
The government is way over the required one-year time limit to save this creature. And the threats are not getting any easier for the
squirrel. The warming and drying of the San Bernardino Mountains is not going to stop. Climate change, drought – these factors make the
lower elevations too dry to produce the truffles which is what the flying squirrel wishes to dine out on. And when it comes to higher elevations, a large amount of the forest canopy limbs have been cut away, which hurts the squirrels ability to move throughout the terrain. Humans, of course, add on to the issue because the population is increasing. More people are moving into the area (and more and more of their cats are drooling).
The world, especially the United States, thrives on diversity. We have a unique system where everything is concerned – from cultures to races to habitats to our beloved animals. And this squirrel happens to be as unique as it gets, so losing the species would be a horrible thing to have happen.
People are trying very hard to show the issues that will lead to the squirrel’s ultimate demise so that an order of protection will be granted. Now, all we can hope for is that the species is still around when April of 2016 comes to pass.
Source: Baret News Wire