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Computers to save unique type of American red squirrel

As with the British red squirrel, one of the Mount Graham red squirrel's threats is an introduced species of squirrel. The Abert's tree squirrel likes to eat similar types of food to the reds and also plunders the food middens they build to see them through the winter.

Other threats include damage to its habitat by insects and huge forest fires, as well as predation from birds of prey like the Mexican Spotted Owl and the Northern goshawk and mammals like the Bobcat.

Dr Peter Lurz, a research associate based at Newcastle University's Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability, began working on the project when the Arizona University team attended an international squirrel symposium in North East England hosted by Newcastle University.

Dr Lurz said: "I think the important thing to remember is that there are multiple threats facing the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, and their survival depends on how these are best managed."

The UK-US team have so far used the model to examine potential effect of predation and the Abert's squirrel on squirrel population but are to expand on this: "The model will help identify areas where we need more research, will inform researchers' field work and will ultimately help the team to identify how future conservation efforts can best be focused," added Dr Lurz.

John Koprowski, associate professor with The University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources, and MSc student David Wood are working on the project in the US.

Prof Koprowski 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.

He added: "
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Contact: Claire Jordan
claire.jordan@ncl.ac.uk
01-91-222-6067
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
27-Apr-2006


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