Delaware Hunters Reminded Harvest of Delmarva Fox Squirrels is Prohibited

A Delmarva fox squirrel at the Assawoman Wildlife Area wearing a telemetry collar for remote tracking /DNREC photo

 

Gray Squirrel Hunting Season to Open Sept. 15

With the opening of gray squirrel hunting season on Sept. 15, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control reminds Delaware hunters to be vigilant and not to harvest state-endangered Delmarva fox squirrels. Delmarva fox squirrel populations are found in Sussex County at and near the Nanticoke Wildlife Area, Assawoman Wildlife Area, Trap Pond State Park, Redden State Forest and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

Hunting for and harvesting of Delmarva fox squirrels is prohibited. It is important that hunters note the differences between the fox squirrel and the more commonly-seen eastern gray squirrel. Delmarva fox squirrels are much larger than gray squirrels and have lighter silver-gray fur with little to no brown, longer, fuller tails and short, rounded ears compared to gray squirrels.

Delmarva fox squirrels remain rare in Delaware, with the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife working to reestablish the species by relocating Delmarva fox squirrels from robust populations in Maryland to suitable habitat in Delaware.

More information about Delmarva fox squirrels, including photographs comparing Delmarva fox squirrels and eastern gray squirrels, and answers to frequently asked questions, can be found at de.gov/foxsquirrel.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities, and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife conserves and manages Delaware’s fish and wildlife and their habitats, and provides fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and boating access on nearly 68,000 acres of public land. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov; Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov

###


DNREC and Nonprofit Partners Promote, Monitor Nesting Success of American Kestrels

A kestrel chick after receiving its identifying USGS leg-band attached by DNREC raptor, grassland and forest bird biologist Jordan Brown. DNREC photo.

 

Avian Biologists Gather Data on Species’ Decline Through Nest Box Placement and Banding Program

When an American kestrel nest box at Mt. Cuba Center was recently surveyed for signs of nesting success, the tiny leg bands placed on five healthy chicks by avian biologist Jordan Brown attested that a mating pair of kestrels had indeed succeeded in helping repopulate a species in precipitous decline. This decline has been seen not just in Delaware but across the United States and Canada, most notably in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions that have experienced up to a 93% population decline since the 1960s. That verification was another milepost moment for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which leads the Delaware Kestrel Partnership. It is working to save the American kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America, which was listed as a state endangered species by Delaware in 2013.

DNREC’s response to this fierce little raptor’s plight was swift. Beginning in 2014, the DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation and Brandywine Zoo, with assistance from the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife, began installing nest boxes on both private and public lands across the state. The Delaware Kestrel Partnership, a group of conservation agencies and organizations, was formed two years later as a collaborative effort to better understand why kestrels have declined, with the partnership now led by the Division of Fish and Wildlife with assistance from the Brandywine Zoo.

The partnership’s focus continues to be on helping the kestrel rebound from its decline in Delaware, said Brown, who is DNREC’s Wildlife Section raptor, grassland and forest bird biologist, during her team’s recent survey at Mt. Cuba, available at the @DelawareDNREC YouTube Channel.

DNREC Raptor, grassland and forest bird biologist Jordan Brown removes a kestrel chick from a nesting box for a “check-up” that will include its weight, US Geological Survey leg-banding and other data gathered by DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife. DNREC photo.
DNREC Raptor, grassland and forest bird biologist Jordan Brown removes a kestrel chick from a nesting box for a “check-up” that will include its weight, US Geological Survey leg-banding and other data gathered by DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife. DNREC photo.

Active nest boxes are visited by Division of Fish and Wildlife and Brandywine Zoo staff, where kestrel adults and chicks are weighed, measured, and banded with unique numbered leg bands as well as field-readable color bands to identify individual birds. Blood samples from kestrels are collected by trained staff with veterinarian oversight and sent to collaborators with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pa., to be tested for contaminants and other possible contributors to the kestrel’s decline.

All these efforts gather data that will help DNREC understand where kestrels nest, how far they disperse or migrate, how successful they are at reproducing in Delaware, and how their habitat may be impacting their population levels. Research carried out through the nest box monitoring program will help inform the long-term conservation of the American kestrel and – of equally critical importance, particularly in a smaller state such as Delaware – will guide future habitat management for this strikingly beautiful falcon.

When Brown, the DNREC avian biologist, spoke to Mt. Cuba Center staff and other guests during the chick banding effort, she expanded on the Delaware Kestrel Partnership’s current efforts, how the program has evolved over the years, and the ways her team’s data collection helps conserve this species and achieve the goals of the project, along with demonstrating the banding of chicks and processing of nesting kestrels. She also cited Mt. Cuba as an invaluable partner on the Delaware Kestrel Project – the center has protected over 13,000 acres of natural lands, and currently hosts seven kestrel boxes on their properties, which support at least two active nesting pairs each year.

The next day Brown seized upon another kestrel conservation outreach opportunity at Winterthur Museums and Gardens, which like Mt. Cuba is among the Delaware Kestrel Partnership’s largest landowners that also includes DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife, DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation, Delaware Nature Society and Delaware Wild Lands. Implicit in her outreach presentation was that the American kestrel can never have too much habitat in Delaware, and while the larger landowners are prominent in providing that habitat, many nest boxes are located on smaller, private lands that can be equally important to the success of the state endangered species conservation program to restore the American kestrel population in Delaware.

The Delaware Kestrel Partnership is planning to add to existing nest box locations in Kent and Sussex counties to obtain a better picture of the statewide status of the American kestrel. Landowners with open spaces such as meadows, grasslands, livestock paddocks or agricultural fields are encouraged to contact the DNREC’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912 if interested in hosting a nest box on their property.

A total of 71 kestrel nest boxes from all three counties were monitored in the 2022 nesting season, made possible through the efforts of dedicated volunteers. For more information about the Delaware Kestrel Partnership, including how to volunteer for the program, visit de.gov/kestrels. For more information about private landowners, conservation groups and nonprofit organizations becoming part of the Delaware Kestrel Partnership, contact DNREC’s Avian Conservation Program at 302-735-8658.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities, and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife conserves and manages Delaware’s fish and wildlife and their habitats, and provides fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and boating access on nearly 68,000 acres of public land. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov; Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov

###


DNREC Inland Bays Wetland Strategy Details Restoration Plans for Wetlands and Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has finalized a strategy to address several specific wetlands and aquatic vegetation issues in the Inland Bays watershed. Published by the DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program (WMAP), the Inland Bays Wetland Restoration Strategy plan covers the Inland Bays watershed, which drains 210,064 acres of land in southern Delaware. According to Delaware’s 2017 Statewide Wetland Mapping Project, 58,906 acres of the basin are wetlands. This acreage represents 20% of all of Delaware’s wetlands.

The primary purpose of this strategy is to identify key tactics for addressing issues affecting tidal wetlands, non-tidal wetlands, and submerged aquatic vegetation in the Inland Bays watershed, while also identifying priority areas on public land where the tactics could be implemented. WMAP used past wetland health assessments, documented changes in wetland acreage in the recent decade, and interviews from more than 12 conservation organizations to compile the strategy. WMAP also used spatial analysis methods to identify optimal tidal and non-tidal wetland restoration opportunities on public protected lands in the Inland Bays.

The Inland Bays Wetland Restoration Strategy plan contains a comprehensive overview of major issues faced by wetlands and submerged aquatic vegetation, such as sea level rise and invasive species, in the Inland Bays and the diverse tactics that can be used to address the problems. The tactics and tasks outlined align with seven major themes from Delaware’s 2021-2025 Wetland Program Plan: mapping, monitoring, climate adaptation, restoration, collaboration, conservation, and education.

The DNREC-produced plan can be cited by conservation groups and organizations to prioritize projects and justify funding requests for wetland or submerged aquatic vegetation restoration projects in the Inland Bays. The plan also supports wetland management goals of several entities, including the Delaware Wildlife Action Plan created by DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). As other conservation groups working in the Inland Bays may not have a concrete wetland and submerged aquatic vegetation-related strategy, the Inland Bays Wetland Restoration Strategy also could serve as a starting point for understanding current Delaware wetlands and aquatic vegetation issues, while encouraging collaboration toward resolving them.

For more information about DNREC’s Inland Bays Wetland Strategy, visit dnrec.delaware.gov.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship develops and implements innovative watershed assessment, monitoring and implementation activities. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov; Joanna Wilson, joanna.wilson@delaware.gov


2021 State Conservation Poster Contest Winners Announced

State winner, grades 4 to 6, Samuel Vasquez Ortiz, Gallagher Elementary

 

The Delaware Association of Conservation Districts, in partnership with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, today announced the winners of its annual conservation poster contest, which provided students with an opportunity to convey their artistic impressions about soil, water and related natural resources based on the 2021 theme, “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities.”

The 2021 theme, “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities,” encouraged people to protect existing trees and plant new ones, as well as to advocate and educate about trees and forest conservation within their communities. As the biggest plants on the planet, trees are a vital resource, as they absorb carbon from the atmosphere, stabilize the soil, filter water, provide healthy habitat for wildlife and offer many other benefits.

First place winners from New Castle County are:

  • K to 1: Lawrence Xun*, North Star Elementary
  • 2 to 3: Christine Alex*, Gallagher Elementary
  • 4 to 6: Samuel Vasquez Ortiz*, Gallagher Elementary
  • 7 to 9: Rishitha Guddapalli*, Cab Calloway School of the Arts
  • 10 to 12: Eason Li*, Tower Hill School

First place winners from Kent County are:

  • K to 1: Jade McWaine, Academy of Dover
  • 2 to 3: Zahara Odige, Academy of Dover
  • 4 to 6: Leah Randall, Academy of Dover
  • 7 to 9: Jemma Byrd, Magnolia Middle School
  • 10 to 12: Evan Shane, Smyrna High School

State winner, grades 7 to 9, Rishitha Guddapalli, Cab Calloway School of the Arts
State winner, grades 7 to 9, Rishitha Guddapalli, Cab Calloway School of the Arts

*Denotes state winning posters. No entries were submitted in 2021 from Sussex County.

Posters were judged on good use of color, good attention to detail, an easy to understand conservation message, originality and creativity, along with correct use of the conservation theme. First, second and third place winners in each grade category received gift cards for $50, $25 and $15, respectively, from their local Conservation District office. The first place state winners received $50 from the Delaware Association of Conservation Districts.

State winning posters by Lawrence Xun, Christine Alex, Samuel Vasquez Ortiz, Rishitha Guddapalli and Eason Li have been entered into the national poster contest sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts Ladies Auxiliary. National winners will be announced at the NACD conference being held Feb. 12 to 16 in Orlando, Fla.

Delaware’s poster contest also includes a category for computer generated/graphic arts posters. Entries were received from two schools in New Castle County. The winners were:

  • First place: Langley Grace Marvel, Del Castle Vo Tech High School
  • Second place went to Noelle Evans also of Del Castle Vo Tech High School
  • Third place: Vicken Karakashian, Appoquinimink High School

Each year, the poster contest follows the annual Soil and Water Stewardship Week theme sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts. The 2022 poster contest will focus on the theme “Healthy Soil, Healthy Life.” Healthy soils are vital to food production and also contribute to clean air and water, plentiful crops and forests, diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes. The theme encourages people to recognize where food comes from and the farmers who are dedicated to using responsible land-management practices to ensure a sustainable food supply and healthy land and soil for future generations.

More information about the poster contest can be found at www.nacdnet.org under the Stewardship and Education page.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship develops and implements innovative watershed assessment, monitoring and implementation activities. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Joanna Wilson, joanna.wilson@delaware.gov; Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov

###


Sen. Carper, Gov. Carney, Conservation Groups Hail Christina River Project and Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund

The Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington /DNREC photo

U.S. Senator Tom Carper and Delaware Governor John Carney joined conservation partners at the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington today to celebrate the Christiana and Brandywine River restoration and resiliency project funded by the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund. They celebrated another important step in the ongoing work to improve Wilmington’s riverfront area with clean, healthy rivers and attractive places for people and wildlife.

“I am pleased to be here today with so many good partners to support the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund’s investments in the protection and preservation of this ecological treasure,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Projects like this are critical for our efforts to tackle climate change and help ensure that all Delawareans can enjoy these precious resources for generations to come.”

For the future of federal infrastructure investments, the U.S. Senate recently approved the bipartisan infrastructure package. The bill includes $26 million of supplemental funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over five years. The funding supports on-the-ground restoration projects and new and existing jobs across the four-state watershed through the DRBRP. Projects will enhance fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality to support wildlife and drinking water for people, enhance water management for flood damage mitigation, and improve recreational opportunities for public access. Amidst the growing threats of sea level rise, a creeping salt line, frequent flooding, habitat loss, and polluted stormwater runoff, this investment is desperately needed.

“Millions of people in our region depend on the Delaware River Basin for clean drinking water, and the river remains vitally important for outdoor recreation and economic development for communities in Delaware and beyond,” said Governor John Carney. “All Delawareans deserve clean water. That’s why we’ve made it a priority to upgrade our infrastructure to make sure all Delaware families have access to clean drinking water. We will continue to work with local and federal partners and states in our region that rely on the Delaware River Watershed to properly manage this valuable resource.”

“DNREC has been working for years through the Christina-Brandywine River Remediation, Restoration, Resilience project – or CBR4 – toward a time when the Christina River and Brandywine Creek are once again drinkable, swimmable and fishable,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “We believe it is an achievable goal and are building on decades of work to create a holistic, inspiring vision and plan to direct remediation, restoration and resilience actions for the next 10 to 20 years.”

“The Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund has been invaluable to Delaware, and the watershed as a whole by investing in projects that improve drinking water quality, provide public access to outdoor recreation, and restore and conserve natural habitats, ” said Jen Adkins, Director of Clean Water Supply at American Rivers and a member of the Christina Conservancy Board of Directors. “To date, the Fund has supported 21 projects benefiting the First State, totaling $4.3 million with natural and economic benefits. We’re excited for our project on the lower Christina and Brandywine Rivers here in Wilmington to be among them.”

American Rivers collaborated with the Christina Conservancy to receive a Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund award to work closely with DNREC and other local partners on a Christina and Brandywine Rivers Remediation, Restoration and Resilience plan. This plan will create a blueprint with specific restoration projects for completing the transformation of the lower Christina and Brandywine Rivers in Wilmington into healthy river ecosystems. Additional partners on the project include Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Sarver Ecological, BrightFields, Inc, and Anchor QEA, who are providing scientific and technical expertise, as well as the Delaware Nature Society who is working with local groups like the South Wilmington Planning Network and Collaborate Northeast to seek input from local residents.

Green jobs and workforce development are a focus of Delaware Nature Society whose Trail Ambassadors offered Senator Carper and Governor Carney a tour of the Boardwalk Marsh. Programs such as the Trail Ambassadors not only connect youth closer to the environment but serve as a steppingstone to the proposed Civilian Climate Corps.

“President Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps will put thousands of young people from all backgrounds to work making our communities more resilient, protecting our clean water, addressing environmental injustices, and restoring wildlife habitat — through essential projects like those supported through the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “A 21st century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps will accomplish these critical conservation goals, while equitably empowering the next generation of conservation leaders to strengthen communities across America by restoring treasured natural resources.”

Joanne McGeoch, Delaware Nature Society Interim Executive Director said: “We are grateful to the many partners involved in raising awareness and protection of the Delaware River Watershed. This vital resource provides clean water for millions of people in the region, supports green jobs and our local economy. Delaware Nature Society believes that investments in our youth are equally vital to ensuring our future. To that end, we’ve launched the Trail Ambassador program, engaging local youth from Wilmington in training the next generation of conservation leaders. Along with our partners at National Wildlife Federation, we support the Biden administration’s proposal for the Civilian Conservation Corps and look forward to working together to ensure that conservation jobs are part of the recovery efforts needed to protect our environment, tackle climate change, and boost our economy.”

The Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund was launched in 2018 to conserve and restore natural areas, corridors and waterways on public and private lands that support native fish, wildlife and plants, and to contribute to the vitality of the communities in the Delaware River Watershed. The fund is facilitated by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and funding is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program.

In total, 90 projects have been funded in the last three years that will improve 6,783 acres of forest habitat, treat polluted runoff using agricultural conservation practices on more than 4,596 acres, restore 141 acres of wetland habitat, and improve 3.5 miles of instream habitat in critical headwaters in the Delaware River Basin. View the full 2020 grant slate online at http://bit.ly/dwcf2020.

###