This critter is why you can’t cut a Christmas tree in North Carolina’s national forests

North Carolina news

COURTESY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Many National Forests across the country allow families to hike into the woods to cut their own trees.

Families can buy a permit for under $20 and get anything as big or small as they’d like.

That’s not the case in North Carolina.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service does not issue tree cutting permits for any of the four National Forests in North Carolina. The Forest Service says part of the reason is the limited amount of Christmas tree favorites – Fraser Firs and Red Spruces.

A critter weighing five ounces at the most is the biggest reason. The Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel is an endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service says the squirrel is only found in the high-elevation areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, and southwest Virginia. It makes Red Spruces and Fraser Firs home throughout the year.

The flying squirrel could be traced back to the ice age. The Fish and Wildlife Service said as temperatures warmed, the species moved to higher territory looking for a cooler habitat. The flying squirrel is being threatened by deforestation and invasive pests that attack firs and spruces along with climate change, according to the FWS.

In the summer and spring months, the endangered Indiana bat and the threatened northern long-eared bat make the trees their home.

The Forest Service says once trees are identified as homes to either of these species, they are typically added to a list of prohibited trees to cut.

While these restrictions are in place, there are privately-owned farms that allow you to cut your own Christmas tree. It’s not the same experience but a fair compromise for a beloved family tradition.

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