The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel will be removed from the Endangered species list next month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced.
Watch "Racing Extinction" on Discovery Channel, Dec. 2, at 9 PM ET/PT.
The move has been a long time coming. The squirrel was one of 78 species to be listed under the original Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1967, a forerunner of today's Endangered Species Act, which became law in 1973.
At about 15 inches in body length, minus the tail, Delmarva fox squirrels are larger than other squirrel species, and unlike more typical squirrels they're not usually seen in urban and suburban environments. Instead, they live on rural, forested lands and in agricultural fields.
The animals once ranged in healthy numbers on the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula. But mid-20th-century forest clearing for timber harvesting, agriculture, development, and hunting decimated the animal almost completely.
Now, though, its numbers are so robust that the squirrel is no longer considered at risk of extinction.
According to the FWS, the squirrel has increased its range, since being listed, from four to 10 counties. Its population is now estimated at 20,000, covering nearly 30 percent of the peninsula, primarily in Maryland.
Official's say the Endangered Species Act has put the Delmarva fox squirrel back on the map.
"The Act provides flexibility and incentives to build partnerships with states and private landowners to help recover species while supporting local economic activity," said the U.S. Department of the Interior's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Michael Bean. "I applaud the states of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, and the many partners who came together over the years to make this day possible."
The Blackwater (Maryland), Chincoteague (Virginia) and Prime Hook (Delaware) national wildlife refuges are places nature lovers can check out the reinvigorated squirrel, the FWS said.