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Herding Rats: Fifteen Years of Appalachian Northern Flying Squirrels

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Appalachian Northern Flying Squirrels

  • Pleistocene relict
  • G.s.coloratus inhabits high elevation forest islands in southern Appalachians; G.s.fuscus inhabits more connected landscape in central Appalachians
  • Prefers red spruce or mixed red spruce-northern hardwood forests
  • Cavity nester
  • Mycophagus
  • Parasite-mediatde competition with G. volans

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Frasier Fir and the Balsam Wooly Adelgid

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Fraser fir is a high elevation species that occupies many of the highest peaks of the southern Appalachians in the states of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The species occurs naturally at elevations from 1350 m to the highest peaks (2037 mat Mt. Mitchell). At the lower elevations Fraser fir is found in mixed stands with red spruce, but at the highest elevations Fraser fir predominates.

At elevations as low as 1 OOOm Fraser fir is grown commercially as a highly prized Christmas tree. North Carolina ranks first in the nation in Fraser fir production, and produces 15% of the nation's total Christmas tree crop. An estimated 34 million Fraser fir trees are grown on 23,000 acres in western North Carolina. Cash receipts range from $71.2 million to $100 million annually. Ofthe over 1500 Christmas tree farmers in western North Carolina, two-thirds have less than 10 acres in production. Tennessee and Virginia also have a significant Christmas tree industry.

Download and read the entire report.

Cheat Mountain Salamander - Plethodon nettingi

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The Cheat Mountain salamander is one of 30 species of salamanders known to occur in West Virginia. It was discovered by Graham Netting and Leonard Llewellyn on White Top Mountain, Randolph County in 1935 and was described (named) by N. Bayard Green in 1938.

There are over 70 known sites for this species in the mountainous areas of Tucker, Grant, Randolph, Pendleton and Pocahontas counties.


The Case of the Northern Flying Squirrel

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Indigenous forests across North America have been and continue to be transformed. The implications of these changes are far reaching and include the loss of habitat, biological diversity, and ecological services, as well as diminished air and water quality. The northern flying squirrel is a forest obligate that achieves its highest density in old growth, facilitates critical symbiotic relationships, and is  an essential prey of disturbance-sensitive predators. Its reliance on old-forest attributes varies with community diversity, and its sensitivity to isolation renders it an ideal indicator of landscape connectivity. The results of numerous studies reveal the squirrel’s acute sensitivity to disturbance at multiple spatial scales, which renders it an effective sentinel of forest ecosystem processes and condition over both geological and ecological time scales. Therefore, a thorough understanding of its ecology can inform projections and the effectivemitigation of continued disturbance of ecological communities of boreal and montane coniferous forests.

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West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel - Glaucomys sabrinus fuscu

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flying-squirrelImagine if small families of mastodons lived in isolated areas on mountaintops. People would think such creatures were very special and that it was remarkable, possibly miraculous, that these animals from ancient times were living in our present age. A subspecies as old as mastodons lives today in isolated clusters atop the central Appalachian Mountains in the highest elevations of West Virginia and adjacent Highland County, Virginia. A relic of former ages when the earth was very different, the West Virginia northern flying squirrel was isolated from the northern flying squirrel species when ice sheets covering North America receded about 10,000 years ago.


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Who are we?

This website has been established and is being managed by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy to support the work of the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI).

CASRI is a partnership of diverse interests with a common goal of restoring historic red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystems across the high elevation landscapes of Central Appalachia. It is comprised of private, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations who share a recognition of the importance of this ecosystem.

Contact Us

For more information, and volunteer opportunities, please contact :

Julie Fosbender

Partnership coordinator

US Forest Service

Monongahela National Forest

P: 304-636-1800

f: 304-637-0582