Estimated population of endangered squirrel plummets after Mt. Graham wildfire

PHOENIX (AP) - State officials say an endangered squirrel species' estimated population has apparently plummeted since a major wildfire burned much of its habitat atop a southeastern Arizona mountain last summer.

The state Game and Fish Department says an annual multi-agency survey of the Mount Graham red squirrel produced an estimate of only 35 squirrels, which is only 14 percent of the 252 squirrels estimated in 2016.

Department officials the lightning-ignited fire caused unprecedented impacts to the squirrel habitat but they caution that they're not sure whether their standard survey methods provided an accurate estimate in severely burned areas.

Officials say surveyors observed some squirrels where they didn't live previously.

The department says officials are now considering steps to help the squirrel population's chances for survival.

The species was declared endangered in 1987.

© 2017 Associated Press


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