Crystal River — The face of Crystal River is changing, and many residents do not feel it is for the better of the community.
With the destruction of so much land, many wildlife habitats have knowingly been destroyed by the City, Florida Department of Transportation, and road construction crews.
Most recently, the land at the corner of U.S 19 and Venable was cleared.
This area has had many sitings of the Southern fox squirrel, previously classified as Sherman’s fox squirrel, and as the land was being cut down, a fox squirrel was photographed fleeing the area.
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Some residents reported the situation to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Citrus Gazette reached out to FWC about the fox squirrels, and in a statement, they wrote, “The Southern fox squirrel (the species known to occur in the Crystal River area) was removed from the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species List in 2018, but is still protected in state rules. Deliberately taking, pursuing, hunting, molesting, capturing, or killing Southern fox squirrels is prohibited under the state rules that protect them. However, the Southern fox squirrel is not protected from incidental take that may occur when land is cleared.”
The southern fox squirrel typically has two breeding seasons each year. The winter breeding season is from October to February and the summer breeding season is from April to August. Most nests are made of Spanish moss, pine needles, twigs, and leaves, while a few nests are made within tree cavities. Females average one litter per year with an average of 2.3 offspring per litter. Young are weaned at 90 days and sexual maturity is reached at about nine months.
This means the land at the corner of U.S 19 and Venable was cleared during breeding season.
FWC says, “The main threat to the southern fox squirrel population is the destruction of their habitats. Habitat loss has been significant as it is estimated that only 10-20% of original southern fox squirrel native habitat is still intact, most of it having been logged, converted to pasture, degraded by lack of fire, or used for agriculture, commercial and residential development.”
The fox squirrel mostly inhabits long-leaf pine trees, which is what was mostly cut down during the land clearing in Crystal River.
Citrus Gazette reached out to county leaders on the issue, however, emails were ignored.