Endangered Fox Found Outside its Known Range, Shows It’s More Widely Distributed Than Thought
The Sierra Nevada red fox is a rare species facing threats from wildfire, drought, decreasing prey populations, and hybridization with non-native foxes. The southern portion of its population, believed to number between 18 and 39, was listed as endangered in 2021. Recent sightings on survey cameras, though, show its current range is broader than believed.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently shared that the species has been detected in the southern Sierra Nevada, near Taboose Pass, which is located on the eastern boundary of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. The agency says this is the first time the animal has been spotted in that area since the 1930s. It was seen on four different occasions across three survey cameras east of the John Muir Trail. CDFW says that extends its known range more than 100 miles to the south.
CDFW biologist Brian Hatfield explains, “These new detections are very personally gratifying and is a real payoff for all the hard work our staff has put in. From a conservation standpoint this shows that the Sierra Nevada Red Fox is more widely distributed than previously believed.”
The agency notes that with these recent sightings, it’s possible that there’s connectivity between two populations: one in high-elevation areas of Kings Canyon National Park and one at Sonora Pass, located about an hour north of Mammoth Lakes, California.
CDFW is tracking the species as part of an ongoing camera survey focused on alpine carnivores. It began in 2015 and has involved CDFW staff hiking and skiing to install and maintain the cameras in remote areas within the Sierra Nevada.
Sierra Nevada red foxes are usually found at high elevations, but they use a variety of habitats, from alpine areas and subalpine forests to meadows. When determining the species’ endangered status in 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service split it into two distinct population segments: the southern Cascade population within the Cascade Mountains in northern California and Oregon, and a Sierra Nevada population within the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Cascade population was not listed, but the Sierra Nevada population was.Whizzco