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Dismal Swamp Southeastern Shrew No Longer Needs Endangered Species Act Protection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 3, 2000 Release#:N00-002

Contact: Tom MacKenzie 404/ 679-7291

Karen Mayne 804/693-6694

Diane Lynch 413/253-8628

Diana Weaver 413/253-8329

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Dismal Swamp southeastern shrew from Endangered Species Act protection on February 28, 2000. The shrew has had a "threatened" designation since 1986, but recent information shows that the species does not need the Act's protection.

"We list species based upon the best available scientific information. If new information subsequently becomes available showing that a species is not threatened or endangered, we will delist the species,  said Ronald E. Lambertson, the Service's Northeast Regional Director. AIn this case, we received new information that shrews are at healthy levels, are found in a variety of habitats in Virginia and North Carolina, and are genetically secure. For these reasons, we determined the Dismal Swamp southeastern shrew no longer needs protection under the Act."

The final rule to remove the protection of the Act for the shrew is published in the February 28 Federal Register. Service biologists reviewed the best available science and all public information provided before deciding to delist the shrew.

The Dismal Swamp southeastern shrew is a small, long-tailed shrew weighing less than an ounce and measuring up to 4 inches in length. In 1986, the shrew was believed to live solely within the historical boundaries of the Dismal Swamp of extreme southeastern Virginia and adjacent North Carolina.

Once the species was protected under the Act in 1986, the Service began working to recover the shrew population. In 1994, one of the recovery team members, Dr. David Webster of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, recognized that many of the shrews he had been collecting on the coastal plain of eastern North Carolina were similar to specimens of the Dismal Swamp southeastern shrew.

 

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Service funded additional studies in 1995 examining population numbers and distribution of the Dismal Swamp southeastern shrew. When the studies were completed, researchers concluded that the Dismal Swamp southeastern shrew is more widespread than originally thought and is found in a wide variety of habitats throughout southeastern Virginia and the coastal plain of North Carolina. Therefore, the original listing was based on incomplete data. The researchers found that although some interbreeding occurs with a closely related subspecies, it does not threaten the genetic integrity of the shrew and only happens on the fringe of shrew habitat.

Several agencies and organizations supported removal of the Dismal Swamp shrew from the endangered species list, including state wildlife agencies in Virginia and North Carolina.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices 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 fish and wildlife agencies.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

1. HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MY ABILITY TO BUILD ON MY PROPERTY?

You can proceed with plans for your property without coordinating with the U.S. Fish and wildlife Service on impacts to the shrew. However, alterations of wetlands within shrew habitat will still require coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the need for a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

2. HOW WILL THIS AFFECT FEDERAL AGENCIES?

Federal agency consultation pursuant to Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 would no longer be required for actions affecting the shrew.

3. WHY DID IT TAKE THE SERVICE SO LONG TO DELIST THE SPECIES SINCE IT HAS KNOWN SINCE 1994 THAT THE RANGE OF THE SHREW WAS MORE WIDESPREAD THAN PREVIOUSLY BELIEVED?

In 1994, this was only a hypothesis by one mammalogist. To test this hypothesis, two studies were funded in 1995 and the results were submitted to the Service in 1996. After preliminary review of the results by the recovery team and the Service, the reports were sent to independent peer reviewers. After these comments were received, the Service began the delisting process.

4. WHAT ABOUT ALL THE MONEY SPENT AND TIME LOST BY PRIVATE LANDOWNERS AND LOCALITIES TO PROTECT THE SHREW?

Usually, when habitat for the shrew was created or restored to compensate for wetlands destroyed, the creation or restoration of wetlands was required despite the shrew to compensate for wetland loss as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineersí implementation of the Clean Water Act.


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