Endangered Mount Graham red squirrel numbers uncertain

This cute energetic ball of fur with a plume like tail is the endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrel,250px-tamiasciurus_hudsonicusredsquir_001 isolated for the last 10,000 years in a small area of coniferous forest on a southeastern mountain in the Arizona desert. Although to the untrained observer this squirrel looks similar to others, it has a unique shape, genetic make-up and behavioral characteristics.

An imported computer data collecting system is being used to take the few squirrels that are left the model to create a conservation strategy for the forest, assisting with planting and felling plans to help maintain a viable red squirrel population. The reds’ biggest threat is the introduced grey squirrel, which out-competes them for food and transfers a deadly virus.

In the U.S., the computer model is used to mimic population dynamics in response to different threats. The data collected will help evaluate and refocus existing efforts to save Mount Graham Red Squirrel. Although conservation measures are already in place, the numbers of squirrels continue to decline
Threats to the Mount Graham Red Squirrel’s threats primarily comes from an introduced species the Abert’s tree squirrel. It likes to eat similar types of food to the reds and steals the food middens(stores) they build to see them through the winter. It other threats to the pine squirrel include damage to its habitat by insects and huge forest fires, and predation from birds of prey like the Mexican Spotted Owl and the Northern goshawk, the bobcat and hunting by man.

John Koprowski, associate professor with The University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources, and MSc student David Wood “said current conservation methods, such as limiting access to the mountain, restricting hunting and an existing squirrel refuge did not appear to be stemming the population’s decline. He said: “It’s very important that we preserve the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, which has survived since the last Ice Age. Its decline in recent years is an indication of something changing on the mountain, and we need to find out what it is.”

Koprowski added: “There are also important ecological reasons to save it – for example the squirrel’s middens are an important source of food and habitat for chipmunks, voles, and mice, and the forest would be quite different without these animals. Moreover, if we can’t save a species in a relatively controlled, isolated environment like this, it doesn’t bode well for effective conservation of other species in more complex situations.”

Excerpts Computers May Help Save Mount Graham Red Squirrel
redsquirrel8015.jpg

High-tech computer modeling may help rescue the Mount Graham Red Squirrel from extinction.
– Claire Jordan, University of Newcastle upon Tyne    April 25, 2006

email press.office@ncl.ac.uk. Website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office

image courtesy of
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tamiasciurus_hudsonicus_001.jpg

excerpts from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_squirrel

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