Saturday, September 30, 2023

Endangered Sierra Nevada Red Fox Seen Near National Parks in California a Century After Last Sighting, Trail Camera Reveals

For the first time since it was last seen nearly a century ago, an endangered species was recently spotted prowling through the slopes of the rocky terrain close to the national parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, in California. According to a press release issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Tuesday, trail cameras used by the department recorded four sightings of a Sierra Nevada red fox close to Taboose Pass between April 20 and June 4, 2022.

Trail Cameras in the National Parks of California

Julia Lawson, an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the agency’s ongoing study of alpine carnivores, which started in 2015, makes use of trail cameras that are spaced about one mile apart and outfitted with scented lures to entice curious animals.

Coyotes, martens, black bears, long-tailed weasels, and bobcats are the animals they find most frequently. Badgers, western spotted skunks, gray foxes, short-tailed weasels, and mountain lions have also been documented by these cameras.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, this was the first time a Sierra Nevada red fox has been spotted in this area since the 1930s, and it was about 100 miles south of the species’ known range. The fox would explore the lures when it came close to the cameras that were installed along the John Muir Trail at 11,400 to 12,000 feet elevation before being startled by the shutter and scurrying away, SFGate reports.

Sierra Nevada Forest Fox

Most likely the rarest and most endangered red fox subspecies in North America is the Sierra Nevada red fox, as per Pacific Forest Trust. There is a population that is known to exist in the Lassen Peak area, where they can occasionally be seen or captured on camera. They reside in mountain meadows and open conifer woodlands close to the treelines.

Lawson told SFGate that Sierra Nevada red foxes have bushy tails with white tips that are nearly as long as their bodies, unlike the much more typical gray foxes. The black on their forelegs and the backs of their ears matched the markings on the fox seen on the trail cameras. Although Lawson said scientists were unable to determine the fox’s exact age and sex, it appeared to be an adult.

Although foxes are known to travel great distances, they are territorial carnivores. and according to Lawson, scientists have verified that between 2017 and 2018, at least one fox from Sonora Pass traveled nearly 70 miles south to Mono Pass. It doesn’t appear likely that the one in Taboose Pass is the same, though.

Also Read: Hidden Trail Cameras Watching Pink Iguana Hatchlings in Galapagos Reveal Threats to Species 

Origins of a Current Population

A small population of the endangered species was found at Sonora Pass in 2010, contrary to what researchers had previously believed to be the case. Yosemite National Park, Mono Pass, and areas of the Sierra National Forest close to Mono Creek have also reported sightings. 2019 saw the discovery of at least 15 foxes across the Sierra Nevada.

Yosemite Conservancy reports 39 confirmed sightings in their area in 2019.

According to Lawson, it is logical to assume that the species population is quite small, with the possibility that there may be fewer than 50 animals.

They are still looking for the original habitat of the foxes seen. The detections could indicate that a previously unknown population of Sierra Nevada red foxes present in the Kings Canyon area has been found, or they could indicate that the population at Sonora Pass has grown, according to Lawson.

Possibilities of Recovering an Endangered Species

The possibility of saving this species and removing it from the endangered species list is very exciting, according to Lawson, even though the cause is not yet known.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Yosemite National Park, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the California Department of Water Resources, the UC Davis Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit, and Southern California Edison are all working together on the trail camera project, SFGate reports.

Related Article: Hidden Cameras Catch Nearly Locally Extinct Carnivorous Quolls in Conservation Site -Australia 

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