Endangered Mount Graham red squirrel population grew due to new search method

Arizona Game and Fish Department says the population increased compared to 2021.
Arizona Game and Fish Department says the population increased compared to 2021.(Courtesy of the Arizona Game and Safety Department)
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 5:43 PM MST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2022 at 9:40 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The Arizona Game and Fish Department says the population of Mount Graham red squirrels increased in 2022. According to the department, the increase is likely due to updated search methods when looking for the endangered squirrel.

The squirrel population grew from 109 last year to 156 in 2022. “After the Frye Fire impacted a significant amount of the forest, we needed a better survey method in order to search out areas that red squirrels may not have been previously occupying,” said Holly Hicks, the department’s small mammal project coordinator.

The old method of counting squirrels relied on all known locations of “middens,” areas where red squirrels store their cones. The new method involves identifying newer middens, typically created when a squirrel moves to a new or different area.

The Mount Graham red squirrel was listed as “endangered” in 1987 in Arizona, but they’re common throughout the rest of the country. The Mount Graham red squirrel population peaked at about 550 animals in the late 1990s but typically ranged between 200 and 300 individuals until the 2017 Frye Fire devastated much of their habitat.