Alaskan Squirrel Not Endangered, Says Agency

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Listing the Prince of Wales flying squirrel as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act is not warranted, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a proposed rule.
     The small squirrel, found in the Alexander Archipelago in southeast Alaska, is a distinct subspecies of the northern flying squirrel, the USFWS wrote.
     “The greatest threat facing the Prince of Wales flying squirrel is the destruction and fragmentation of its habitat,” according to the petition filed by WildEarth Guardians. The USFWS, however, maintains that studies show the squirrel may actually “select” for the edges of habitat areas and is able to move “among remnant forest patches,” according to the proposed rule.
     Unlike the northern flying squirrel, the Prince of Wales squirrel does not appear to be dependent on old growth forest to survive or reproduce, which was a “critical assumption” in the petition for listing, the USFWS wrote. The species appears to be a “habitat opportunist,” utilizing a variety of forested habitats and food items, and dispersing successfully, according to the USFWS.
     The USFWS found “most of the information” in the petition “to be speculative or unsubstantiated,” even when added to information the agency already had on file. It also pointed out that the squirrel already enjoys protections under the Tongass Land Management Plan.
     Even though the USFWS concluded a listing is not warranted, the agency will accept further information at any time.

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