Delaware Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The Delaware Wildlife Action Plan provides a general framework and specific strategies for conserving Delaware’s native wildlife and the habitats they depend on as vital components of the state’s natural heritage. The plan identifies over 450 species of greatest conservation need – many of them rare, some declining, others still fairly common – and focuses on protecting the forests, streams, meadows, offshore waters and wetlands that sustain them. The plan prescribes on-the-ground management actions for both public and private lands, strategies for enhancing partnerships and increasing public awareness, and steps to enhance the state’s internal capacity to coordinate implementation.

Management

More than 230,000 acres in Delaware are managed, either publicly or privately, for wildlife conservation, with about 75 percent of this land managed by the state.

Wildlife Highlights

Perhaps Delaware’s most dramatic natural spectacle occurs each spring on the shores of the Delaware Bay. Here, millions of spawning horseshoe crabs are followed by thousands of migrating sandpipers and plovers that feast on crab eggs, making the Delaware Bay one of the largest migratory shorebird stopovers in eastern North America.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Delaware

Nearly 90 different conservation issues affecting species or habitats in Delaware were identified in the plan, representing 16 categories, such as agricultural and forestry operations, water use, solid waste disposal, wildlife harvesting, climate change and others.

Habitat Loss

Habitat loss, fragmentation or degradation, especially from residential development and related road construction, emerges as the most significant issue for wildlife conservation. Long confined to northern Delaware and the vicinity of a few cities and towns, the problem has now spread throughout the state. Impacts vary among habitats, with loss and fragmentation most significant in upland forests and non-tidal wetlands, and degradation from the destruction of buffers most significant in wetlands.

Invasive Species

Invasive species, nuisance animals and diseases, also threaten wildlife and habitats. The non-native common reed displaces native marsh grasses, while overabundant deer destroy forest wildflowers, and the Dermo parasite decimates oysters in the Bay. Even outdoor cats and dogs off leash may impact some wildlife. In addition to those species already present in Delaware, others nearby – Asian long-horned beetle, chronic wasting disease, water chestnut – can be expected to eventually reach the state.

Working Together for Delaware’s Wildlife

A group of key partners guided development of the Delaware Wildlife Action Plan, providing input on species lists, habitat classification and conservation issues and actions. The group included representatives from state and Federal agencies and from non-profit conservation, land management and academic organizations and institutions. Public input was gathered during several public meetings and through the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s website. The key partners group will be expanded into a broader steering committee to guide implementation of the plan.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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