Fish and Wildlife Populations
Delaware’s diverse natural settings provide
for a unique variety of fish and wildlife. Delaware is inhabited
by approximately 63 species of waterfowl including offshore birds,
24 species of birds of prey, 132 species of song birds, 51 species
of mammals and numerous species of freshwater and saltwater fish.
Habitat preservation and keeping fragile ecosystems from being
upset are necessary to maintain species diversity and populations.
Delaware has 18 endangered and threatened resident animal species,
including several whales and sea turtles that venture into Delaware
waters. The state lists 323 animal species of special state concern
including 30 historical, extirpated or reported species. Habitat
loss is the main factor in these species’ decline. Effective conservation
actions are required to ensure the recovery of these species.
Sound management of the deer population in Delaware is necessary
due to its rapid growth. The 1995-1996 overall deer season resulted
in 8,779 animals being taken, which was the highest number in
a season in Delaware. This represents a 12.2% increase from the
previous 1993-1994 record. The annual deer harvest has been rising
dramatically as have deer damage complaints. DNREC has responded
by liberalizing the hunting seasons and is working with farmers
on a case-by-case basis to develop appropriate management techniques.
Delaware’s marine and estuarine waters support recreational
and commercial fisheries of considerable and sociological significance.
This is due to these waters having high biological productivity
which supports harvestable quantities of fish and shellfish. Increasing
fishing pressure on populations along the East Coast has given
rise to management plans to help species recover. DNREC is also
beginning work with New Jersey on development of a management
plan for the blue crab. Weakfish, summer flounder, blue fish,
and the Atlantic croaker are important species that utilize the
estuary as feeding, spawning and/or nursery habitat. Though exact
numbers of fish cannot be determined, surveys are conducted to
determine trends in species abundance and distribution. In the
1995 bottom trawl sampling of fish in the Delaware Bay, weakfish
was the most abundant species collected by number (18,314) and
weight (2,958kg), comprising 56% of the total fish caught. The
annual weakfish density was the second highest for the entire
time series which dates back to 1966, however, the majority of
these fish are second year fish that are targeted by trawlers
in the waters. Unless these states with large trawler fleets comply
with the Fisheries Management Plan, there is little hope that
the population will recover to a population with many larger fish.