For Immediate Release
September 9, 1998

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE DETERMINES LISTING OF
FLORIDA'S BIG CYPRESS FOX SQUIRREL MAY BE WARRANTED

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the Big Cypress fox squirrel of Florida may warrant listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and is soliciting additional scientific information and public comment on the status of the species.

The squirrel is a member of the southernmost subspecies of the fox squirrel and is found in portions of Hendry, Collier, Lee, Monroe and northwestern Dade counties in southwestern Florida. It is a smaller relative of the largest tree squirrels in North America. The average length of the Big Cypress fox squirrel's head and body is 11-12 inches, and the buff or tan-colored rodent sports a large bushy tail.

Sidney B. Maddock of the Biodiversity Legal Foundation of Buxton, North Carolina, petitioned the Service to list the species as threatened. Threatened is defined as likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

"While this squirrel may never have been a common species, it now appears to be rare throughout its range, and some historic populations have disappeared altogether," said the Service's Southeast Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton.

Reasons for the squirrel's continuing population decline are loss and fragmentation of its habitat due to land development and suppression of natural fires that thin out heavy underbrush that is unfavorable habitat for the squirrel. Other factors include shooting and highway deaths.

The Service will review the status of this species and publish a decision on whether or not listing is warranted within nine months of the 90-day finding For additional information on this matter, contact Mr. Dr. Michael M. Bentzien, field supervisor of the Service's Jacksonville, Florida Field Office. His phone number is: 904-232-2580.

Comments on the status of the Big Cypress fox squirrel may be submitted to the same office -- 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida -- until December 8, 1998.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

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Release #: R98-079


1998 News Releases

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