When lighting struck the Pinaleño Mountains in southeast Arizona at around 2:45 p.m. on June 7, igniting a 48,000-acre fire that reduced an ancient forest to blackened poles and stumps, a scurry of rare squirrels — 217 of the 252 left in existence — disappeared.
Some were fitted with radio transmitters that burned to ash; conservationists deduced their fates. They hoped others had managed to escape.
But for those 35 survivors — biological remnants from the last ice age — Jeff Humphrey, a spokesman with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, was deeply concerned.
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