The squirrels have recovered from the brink of extinction, while conservation efforts have helped their habitat regenerate, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced Monday.
Once known as the Virginia northern flying squirrel, the species lives in the high-elevation hardwood forests of the Allegheny Highlands in West Virginia and Virginia.
The subspecies, as old as the mastodons, was first listed as endangered in 1985. At the time, only 10 squirrels were located in four areas. Threats to their continued existence included loss of habitat, a lethal parasite, human disturbance and competition with the more common southern flying squirrel.
The final rule announcing the delisting will be published Tuesday in the Federal Register and take effect in 30 days. Nocturnal in nature, the West Virginia northern flying squirrel has dense, silky fur that is brown on top and gray underneath. Though they weigh less than 5 ounces, they're about a foot long, mostly because of their broad, flat tails.
To glide on the air, they stretch all four legs apart, pulling loose folds of skin taut to create a parachute.
Unlike other squirrels, the species remains active in winter.
Kempthorne said the U.S. Forest Service, through its management of the Monongahela and George Washington national forests, played a major role in protecting the habitat.