For Immediate Release, June 17, 2014

Contact: Shaye Wolf, (415) 632-5301,

Lawsuit Seeks to Protect Rare Southern California Flying Squirrel

‘Nature’s Wingsuits’ Endangered by Climate Change, Forest Destruction

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the San Bernardino flying squirrel under the Endangered Species Act. This rare, truffle-eating flying squirrel is threatened by climate change, forest habitat destruction and predation by domestic cats. It has disappeared in recent decades from one of the two mountain ranges it lives in near Los Angeles.

San Bernardino flying squirrel
Photo by Darleen Ortlieb Frechen. This photo is available for media use.

“If these amazing flying squirrels don’t get Endangered Species Act protection, global warming could push them out of their last mountain refuge,” said Shaye Wolf, the Center’s climate science director. “The federal government needs to act before these unique animals disappear forever.” 

The Center petitioned in 2010 to have the San Bernardino flying squirrel protected by the Endangered Species Act. The animals depend on high-elevation conifer forests in Southern California, specialize in eating truffles, and can glide through the air between trees at distances up to 300 feet, using wingsuit-like flaps that extend between their wrists and ankles. They were historically found in the San Jacinto and San Bernardino mountains, but there have been no confirmed sightings in the San Jacintos for several decades, and a recent five-year wildlife resurvey study in the region failed to find any of the squirrels.

The remaining population, in the San Bernardino Mountains, facing the triple threat of climate change, habitat destruction and cat predation, is seeing its forest habitat move upslope as temperatures warm; drier conditions threaten its truffle supply, which thrives in wet, cool conditions. Misguided forest-management practices are removing the canopy cover, snags and downed logs the flying squirrels need, and urban development is encroaching on their remaining habitat and increasing predation by domestic cats.

In 2012 the Service determined that the San Bernardino flying squirrel “may warrant” federal protection as an endangered or threatened species. The Service is now almost three years overdue in making the required 12-month finding to decide whether protection will be granted.

The San Bernardino flying squirrel is one of 10 species across the country that the Center is prioritizing for Endangered Species Act protection this fiscal year. Under a settlement agreement with the Service that expedites protection decisions for 757 species, the Center can push forward 10 decisions annually. The other priority species for 2014 include the Alexander Archipelago wolf from Alaska, the Ichetucknee siltsnail from Florida, the black-backed woodpecker from California and South Dakota, Kirtland’s snake from the Midwest, and four freshwater species from the southeastern United States, including two fish, a mussel and a crayfish. The species are facing extinction for many reasons, chief among them habitat loss from logging and development, global climate change, pollution, groundwater decline and water overuse. 

Under the landmark settlement, 118 species have already gained Endangered Species Act protection, and another 24 have been proposed for protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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