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Pennsylvania's flying squirrels endangered

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By Allison M. Heinrichs
Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007

The northern flying squirrel, the largest and rarest of Pennsylvania's two flying squirrel species, will be added to the state's endangered species list, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

"Our field survey work has shown that the northern flying squirrel's population has been in decline for some time and is in need of our assistance," Game Commission biologist Greg Turner said in a news release. "They have very specific habitat preferences and their existence in Pennsylvania is threatened by a parasite carried by southern flying squirrels and by forest pests that destroy their preferred habitat."

Adding the squirrel to the state's endangered species list will allow the Game Commission to better manage their habitat and apply for federal funding.

The northern flying squirrel once lived across northern Pennsylvania in older-growth coniferous forests, which have become fragmented. It is now found in less than a half-dozen known sites in northeastern Pennsylvania, with the exception of one in Warren County and one in Potter County.

The squirrels are still common in the boreal forests of states along the Canadian border and Canada.

A parasite called Strongyloides robustus is carried by the southern flying squirrels and is lethal to the northerners, likely because it suppresses their ability to put on winter fat and even maintain their existing weight.

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