Kelly Vaughn

Named for naturalist John James Abert, Abert’s squirrels (Sciurus aberti) are tassel-eared, tree-fond creatures that are found in ponderosa pine forests across Arizona. Like their black-bellied and Kaibab counterparts, Abert’s squirrels thrive on a diet of pine cone seeds and fungi. When those food stores are depleted (usually in cooler seasons), they’ll stuff their cheeks with the inner bark of pine sticks. However, that becomes a dangerous situation in winter. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, “If deep snow cover or other factors force the squirrel to rely entirely on this food source, the animal will eventually go into shock and die. Only after years of research was it learned that the periods of tassel-eared squirrel scarcity and abundance were related to the amount of snow cover and the availability of underground fungi.” Fortunately, there seems to be a profusion of Abert’s squirrels in Arizona today, and the small rodents enjoy a conservation status of “least concern.”