Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 22, 2014

Contact:  Shaye Wolf, (415) 385-5746,

Rare Southern California Flying Squirrel Moves Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

Legal Settlement Sets Deadline for Federal Protections

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity reached a settlement agreement today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a deadline to determine whether the San Bernardino flying squirrel will be protected under the Endangered Species Act. This rare, truffle-eating flying squirrel is threatened by global warming, 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.

“The flying squirrel is one of the natural wonders of Southern California’s mountains, but these amazing animals will vanish forever if global warming and habitat destruction go unchecked,” said Shaye Wolf, the Center’s climate science director. “This agreement makes sure these squirrels won’t wait forever to get Endangered Species Act protection to help them survive these threats.” 

The Center petitioned in 2010 to protect the San Bernardino flying squirrel under the Endangered Species Act. In 2012 the Service determined that the flying squirrel “may warrant” federal protection as an endangered or threatened species. Today’s agreement requires the Service to decide by April 29, 2016 whether the squirrel will get the Act’s protections.

The flying squirrel depends on high-elevation conifer forests in Southern California, specializes in eating truffles, and can glide through the air between trees at distances up to 300 feet, using wingsuit-like flaps that extend between the wrists and ankles. The animals 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 study in the region failed to find any of the squirrels.

The remaining population in the San Bernardino Mountains faces the triple threat of climate change, habitat destruction and cat predation. The squirrels’ forest habitat is moving upslope as temperatures warm and drier conditions threaten their 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.

Theflying squirrel is one of 10 species across the country that will receive protection decisions under today’s settlement. The other species include the Alexander Archipelago wolf from Alaska, the Ichetucknee siltsnail from Florida, the black-backed woodpecker from California and South Dakota, which is considered as two “distinct populations,” Kirtland’s snake from the Midwest, and four freshwater species from the southeastern United States including two fish, a mussel and a crayfish. The animals are facing extinction for many reasons, chief among them habitat loss from logging and sprawl, groundwater overuse, global warming and pollution.

Under the landmark settlement agreement reached with the Service in 2011 for 757 imperiled species across the country, the Center can seek expedited protection decisions for 10 species per year. To date, 137 species have gained Endangered Species Act protection as the result of the agreement, and another six 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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