Animal, Birds & Fish


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.


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Natural Resources and Environmental Control
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Dover, DE 19901

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