In early April, the Center for Biological Diversity announced its intention to fight for federal protection of the San Bernardino flying squirrel, a native to both the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains.
No sightings of the flying squirrel in the San Jacinto Mountains have been confirmed for several decades. And a recent five-year wildlife resurvey study in the region failed to find any of the squirrels, according to the CBD.
CBD filed its notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. The remaining population in the San Bernardino Mountains faces threats from climate change, habitat destruction and cat predation. This is the second CBD action to protect the local squirrel.
The center petitioned in 2010 to have the squirrel protected under the Endangered Species Act. In January 2012, the FWS announced it had completed an initial review of the squirrel’s status and “determined such protection may be warranted.” The agency said further evaluation of the squirrel’s status and the impending threats to its habitat would be conducted.
The service is now more than two years overdue in making the required 12-month finding to decide whether protection will be granted.
In its press release, CBD said, “This rare, truffle-eating flying squirrel is threatened by climate change, forest habitat destruction and predation by domestic cats, and it has disappeared in recent decades from one of the two mountain ranges it lives in near Los Angeles.”
Flying squirrels get their name form a furred membrane called the patagium that extends from the wrists to the ankles, thus enabling them to easily glide between trees. They can glide through the air between trees at distances up to 300 feet.
The animals depend on high-elevation conifer forests of Southern California and favor eating truffles. The squirrels’ forest habitat is moving upslope as temperatures warm and drier conditions threaten their truffle food supply, which thrives in wet, cool conditions.
According to the FWS, moisture is important for the squirrels’ habitat that tends to be near streams or springs, which promote the growth of truffles.
As urban development usurps forests, the squirrels’ remaining mountain habitat decreases and the threat of predation from domestic cats increases.