“Ginny,” the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus) is a descendant of squirrels that were left behind in Appalachia at the end of the last Age, more than 10,000 years ago.
Ginny’s ancestors were specialists in living in a cold climate and as the Mid-Atlantic Highlands warmed, the big-eyed nocturnal mammals found a niche at the tops of the Allegheny Mountains, where other flying squirrels could not survive.
Today, less than 1,000 of Ginny’s species exist, and they are found only in seven West Virginia counties (Tucker, Grant, Randolph, Pendleton, Webster, and Greenbrier)– and one in Virginia, (Highland County).
Under the George Bush administration (and as a favor to anti-environmental forces), about ten years ago Ginny’s legal protection was “shrunk” to the Monongahela National Forest. Two federal judges said this was illegal, but they were outvoted.
However, because the “Mon” is more than one million acres, that’s still a lot of protection, and today researchers and foresters are working to protect Ginny’s habitat in the Forest. Friends of Blackwater has been proud to partner with the Mon to assist this research.
We are so grateful for all the FOB supporters whose donations have helped provide housing and equipment for the many graduate students and VISTA volunteers who have filled our offices with squirrel traps and “hair snares” over the past few years. Believe us, Ginny and her babies appreciate it!
We have just received a new scientific publication by ace squirrel scientists Stephanie E. Trapp, Winston P. Smith, and Elizabeth A. Flaherty, supported by Purdue University. Their newly-published work collected and analyzed isotopes from hair samples and forest floor food samples. And there’s some good news!
The research shows what was known before – that “Ginny” likes red spruce forests a lot. But red spruce is declining rapidly, mostly due to climate change. Now the new research suggests that older-growth trees of other species also can and do provide important nutrition for Ginny and her babies.
*This article originally appeared in our November 2017 newsletter