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Survey: Arizona Mount Graham Red Squirrel Population Down In Past Year

Mount Graham Red Squirrel
(Photo courtesy of Marit Alanen - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Red squirrel.

Southern Arizona’s Mount Graham red squirrel population has decreased slightly, an annual survey reveals.

The number of endangered squirrels in the Pinaleño Mountains near Safford dropped by 11 in the past year. This year’s estimated squirrel population is 252 animals.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department and several other agencies conduct the annual autumn survey. Wildlife specialists visit a random sample of known middens, areas where the red squirrels store their pinecones.

The Game and Fish Department said it’s not unusual for the population numbers to vary from year to year.

Mount Graham red squirrels live only in the upper-elevation conifer forests of the Pinaleños and feed primarily on conifer seeds. Females produce two to seven young a year.

The species was declared endangered nearly 30 years ago. The red squirrel population peaked at about 550 animals in the late 1990s, and the population ranges between 200 and 300 animals.

Sara Hammond has an extensive background in journalism as well as corporate communication. A graduate of the University of Arizona’s (UA) School of Journalism, Hammond interned at the Tucson Citizen and, after graduation, spent 10 years reporting for the Portland Press Herald in Maine.