Federal wildlife officials have decided to list the Sierra Nevada red fox as an endangered species.
Reno, Nev. The slender, bushy-tailed Sierra Nevada red fox will be listed as an endangered species, federal wildlife officials announced Monday, with its population dwindling to just 40 animals in an area of California stretching south from Lake Tahoe. Yosemite National Park.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service decided against listing a separate population of foxes in the southern Cascade Range of Oregon and near Lassen Peak in northern California.
But it said in a listing rule to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday that the Sierra Nevada section south of Tahoe “is at risk of extinction throughout its range.”
“While the exact number remains unknown and is subject to change even with new births and deaths, it is well below the population level that would provide the population with resilience, redundancy and representation.”
This did not give any estimate of the number of red foxes remaining in the Cascade Range.
One of the rare mammals in North America, red foxes in the Sierra are already vulnerable to threats from wildfires, drought, competition in coyotes, decreased hunting, and inbreeding with non-native foxes.
Additional future threats include climate change, as scientists report continued loss of snowpack and general subalpine habitat to which the Sierra Nevada population segment has adapted, the agency said.
The service said this would increase the number of coyotes in high-altitude areas and increase competition between coyotes and Sierra Nevada foxes for prey.
Some biologists believed that the Sierra Nevada population was already extinct 20 years ago before a small remnant population was confirmed in 2010. California banned the trapping of red foxes in 1974.
The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned for federal protection in 2011 and followed suit in 2013 and 2019, before the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the species to the endangered list in 2020.
Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the center, said the Sierra Nevada red fox has declined dramatically due to poisoning and trapping, habitat destruction from logging and livestock grazing, and disturbances from off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. The animals face similar threats to Mount Hood, Oregon, in the Cascade Mountains, he said.
“This is an important step, but the Fish and Wildlife Service must also protect these threatened animals in the Cascades,” he said Monday.
The Sierra Nevada red fox is one of 10 North American subspecies of the red fox. The small, dog-like carnivores grow to about 3.5 feet (1.1 m) long and have a long snout, pointed ears, and a large tail.
With a dark winter coat and short toe pads, they are specially equipped to adapt to cold, snowy areas. They feed on small mammals.
The Fish and Wildlife Service notes that it is not proposing critical habitat designations for the species at this time because habitat “does not appear to be a limiting factor for the species.”
The agency estimates that 18 to 39 animals left in the Sierra range from south of Lake Tahoe to Tuolumne south of California State Highway 88 and east of Yosemite Park in Madera Counties, as well as parts of Alpine, Mono, Fresno and Inyo. Has happened. County
Most foxes — between 10 and 31 — are known to occupy an area north of Yosemite. About five have been observed east of Yosemite, and three have been identified south of Yosemite in the general area of Mono Creek. All eyes have been on federal land.