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Cape Gazette
Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
April 10, 1998     Cape Gazette
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April 10, 1998
 

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CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, April 10 - April 16, 1998 - 95 Searching l00or endangered squirrels at Assawoman OUTDOORS Michael Short none. The good news is that the lack of squirrels doesn't mean they are doing badly because Delmarva fox squirrels are per- haps the rarest animal in Delaware. Once common, the large silver squirrels are now an endangered species, which is struggling to maintain a toehold in Delaware. The squirrels were extinct in Delaware until 30 of them were released at two Delaware sites in 1984. The squirrels have success- fully reproduced, but they remain extremely rare in Delaware. The two sites are Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge and Assawoman Wildlife Refuge. On April 6, state environmental officials checked 20 nesting boxes at Assawoman to see if the boxes had attracted nest- ing Delmarva fox squirrels. The bad news is that we found Mlchael Short photo Rusty Humbert of Delaware's Division of Fish and Wildlife bands a screech owl found the night of Apri| 6, while environ. mental officials looked for rare nesting fox squirrels. TIDES Date i 4/10 India mver Inlet Rehoboth Beach Roosevelt Inlet 4/11 i 4/12 4/13 4/14 i 4/15 i 4/16 Oak Orchard warm weather or bad timing (if the squirrels already nested) could explain the fact that none were found. The distinctive animals are twice the size of most squirrels and are sometimes called "cat" squirrels because of their size, which can reach at least three pounds. They have been on the endangered species list since 1967. Ken Reynolds of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife has directed the effort to bring back the squirrels. Monday's nesting box count was the first time that none of the squirrels have been found. But there were plenty of other wildlife in abundance. The nest- ing boxes yielded a sleepy screech owl and several gray squirrels, who were most annoyed to find their homes plucked from trees and opened. About half of the boxes were occupied with various critters. We climbed up to the boxes, stuffed towels in the entrance and then pulled the box off the side of the tree so it could be safely examined on the ground. Once on the ground,, the lid was removed and the wildlife inside was gently nudged out the en- trance and into a wire enclosure. There can be some interesting flo- ra or fauna, including a nest of black widows found in one box on one previous nesting box count. But this trip produced nothing nearly that interesting. There were at least three flying squirrels, in- cluding one that scurried between our legs in the pitch black as mid- night approached. There was also the owl, which had laid three eggs. She was band- ed, photographed and then promptly fell asleep before being returned to her home. There was also the reporter who tried hard not to fall in ditches or blind environmental officials with flash bulbs while they climbed pine trees in the dark. The owl was no bigger than the gray squirrels and she was surpris- ingly docile. But the two rat snakes found in two boxes were anything but docile once dis- turbed. Joining Reynolds was Harry Schellenger and Rusty Humbert, also of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. Humbert is es- Continued on page 96 I [ ii]:,i  I I IX : | QUALITY ROOFING SUPPLY CO. Everything the  'M?T!N' Commercial Contractor Needs "' 1572 HWY ONE LEWES, DE (302) 644-4115 i i'i'i" ' Benefit Shields Elementary Computer Drivel Annual 5K RUN*& 1 MILE WALK Saturday, April 11th at 10 am (Rain or Shine) "RUN TO THE BEACH'" Sponsored by Lewes Physical Therapy * Seashore Strider Racing Series For more information please contact: Race Director, Tim Bamforth 645-7748 or: Melody Carpenter, Lewes Physical Therapy 644-2530