Squirrels - kids love to chase them, power line electricians love to hate them. Try as we may, it is difficult to travel anywhere in Maryland without seeing these bushy tailed mammals.

Did you know Maryland has a squirrel it can call its own? It's the Delmarva fox squirrel, whose large, fluffy tail is the reason for the "fox" in its name. Delmarvas may reach a length of 15 inches and weigh 1 1/2 to 3 pounds, about double the weight of the common gray squirrel. As their name implies, the fox squirrels' historic home is the Delmarva Peninsula, although today they are found primarily in remote areas of Maryland's Eastern Shore.

The Delmarva fox squirrel is pale and easily recognized by its light, steel-gray coat, silvery tail with black edges, and creamy white belly and ears. The stubby-necked Delmarva has short, rounded ears and when running, appears to be wearing little white slippers.

Unlike gray squirrels, which are primarily tree dwellers, Delmarva fox squirrels spend considerable time on the ground and often feed in crop fields. Shy and quiet, the Delmarva is slow in its movements and escapes danger by running across the ground rather than scampering up a tree.

Delmarvas make their homes in hardwood forests along streams and bays and in small wooded areas next to agricultural fields. They like living among oaks, maples, hickories, beeches and pines, where they can easily find their favorite foods - acorns, nuts and seeds.

September and October are active months for squirrels because they are busy hiding acorns and nuts for the winter when food is difficult to find. Delmarvas sometimes hide nuts in tree cavities but most often bury them singly underground. Farmers help provide winter food for fox squirrels by leaving uncut strips of corn and soybeans near wood edges.

The Delmarva fox squirrel once occupied the entire Delmarva Peninsula, into parts of southeastern Pennsylvania and west-central New Jersey. By the early 1900s, lack of habitat and over-hunting shrunk its range to just four Maryland counties on the Eastern Shore. The Delmarva fox squirrel became an endangered species in 1967.

Today the number of Delmarva fox squirrels in the region has increased, thanks to the preservation efforts of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and other state and federal wildlife agencies.

For more information about Delmarva fox squirrels, call the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Division at 410-260-8540, or check out our home page on the Internet at www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/


Do you believe in ghosts? Lots of people do! Even if you're a non-believer, you may still find the subject of ghosts fascinating.

Since the "appearance" of ghosts usually has some connection to a location and its past, ghost hunting can be an exciting way of learning about a place's history.

Some ghost hunters discover a ghost at a certain location, then explore that location's history to try to explain its presence. Others go to historical places where they think ghosts may exist and seek them out. Either way, knowledge of history is an important ghost-busting tool.

Are some historic places more likely to be haunted than others? Many ghost seekers believe it is important that the site have some sort of tragic event associated with its past. Tragedies like car crashes and murders are often thought to be responsible for the haunting of a site.

If you believe and want to go ghost-hunting, Point Lookout State Park is a good place to start. Many famous ghost hunters have great stories of the many ghosts they've encountered there.

In the 1860s during the Civil War, Point Lookout was the site of a U.S. hospital and a prison camp for Confederate soldiers. Thousands of confederate prisoners, along with hundreds of sick and wounded Union soldiers died and were buried there.

The remains of the Union soldiers were moved to other cemeteries after the war, while the Confederate soldiers were left in unmarked, swampy graves.

In 1910 when the U.S. government returned to Point Lookout to mark the graves, they did not know who was buried where. To make matters worse, the bodies were not buried in coffins, and some of them had washed out of the graves. A decision was then made to move the bodies inland to higher ground.

This combination of the site's tragic history and the removal of the bodies from their original resting place, might be responsible for the many reported sightings of Union and Confederate spirits roaming the park.

If you'd like to learn more about Point Lookout State Park and its ghostly occupants, park rangers host ghost programs, tours and hayrides. For information call 301-872-5688.


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