An extremely rare subspecies of native California fox — of which fewer than 50 remain alive — was spotted in Yosemite National Park for the first time in nearly a century, the park announced this week.
The Sierra Nevada red fox was spotted on motion-sensitive cameras in the park’s vast backcountry on two occasions — Dec. 13 and Jan. 4. During a five-day trip into the wilderness, wildlife biologists who went to check images on the cameras confirmed the sightings, according a park news release posted Wednesday.
“We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park superintendent. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”
Federal and state wildlife biologists have been monitoring a small population of Sierra Nevada red foxes north of the park, in the Sonora Pass area, since they were first spotted in 2010. Before that, the last verified sighting of the animal was 20 years earlier, the release stated.
The subspecies, Vulpes vulpes necator, has been considered threatened by the state of California since 1980. The Sierra Nevada red fox is currently under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if it should listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Sierra Nevada mammal is one of 10 subspecies of red fox in North America.
The Yosemite National Park “carnivore crew” will continue to examine remote cameras to look for other red foxes, and will try to use specialized “hair snare” stations to get samples of the animal’s fur for genetic analysis to try to learn more about the fox.
The sighting is part of a study funded by the Yosemite Conservancy to learn about the distribution of rare carnivores within the landmark Northern California park.