Squirrel Fest, Natural History Museum of Utah’s annual population survey

UTAH — For the third year in a row, the Natural History Museum of Utah has hosted its annual Squirrel Fest, in which they ask the public to contribute to a survey in order to better understand squirrel population numbers. Each year’s data will contribute to the understanding of species ranges for both native and non-native in the case of the rapidly rising population of the Eastern Fox Squirrel. The Fox Squirrel survey will end on December 11.

Invasive squirrels have been a growing problem in Utah since 2011, when the first recorded sighting of the fox squirrel was made. For many states, both invasive species moving into areas and overpopulation have been significant problems. In California, for example, the Eastern Fox Squirrel out-competed the Western Grey Squirrel, forcing them into less urban areas. A habitat change can be a significant stressor on a species and one that makes knowing the numbers on population and habitat range even more important.

Utah has three native squirrel species, the American Red Squirrel, Rock Squirrel, and Albert’s Squirrel. The effect on the American Red Squirrel and Rock Squirrel is of particular interest to researchers. Each species occupies a different ecological niche within an ecosystem. The hope is that the Easter Fox Squirrel won’t act as a competitor to the native species, but it’s unclear if that will be proven true or not.

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