- Associated Press - Friday, December 2, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The state Game and Fish Department says it remains optimistic about an endangered squirrel species that lives on a southeastern Arizona mountain despite a slight reduction in its population.

The agency says an annual survey puts the Mount Graham red squirrel’s estimated population at 252, down from the 2015 estimate of 263.

Wildlife specialist Tim Snow says it’s not uncommon for squirrel populations to fluctuate considerably year to year and that department officials “aren’t immediately concerned” about the reduction.

The survey was conducted jointly by the department, the Coronado National Forest, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Arizona.

The species was declared endangered in 1987.

The Mount Graham population peaked at about 550 animals in the late 1990s, but typically ranges between 200 and 300.

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