The Sierra Nevada Red Fox, One Of North America’s Rarest Mammals, Gains Endangered Species Act Protection

In response to multiple lawsuits and a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently granted endangered species status to the Sierra Nevada red fox.

These beautiful elusive foxes live in remote, high mountainous areas in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges of California and Oregon. The Service is only designating the Sierra Nevada population, which ranges from Yosemite National Park to Kings Canyon National Park, as an endangered species. Members of the species in the Cascades to Mt. Hood, are unfortunately not protected under the Endangered Species Act, even though they face the same threats.

“These secretive foxes are unable to hide from the impacts of climate change, which is reducing the Sierra snowpack and shrinking their alpine habitat,” Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center, told WAN.

“Endangered Species Act protections can give this adorable canine a fighting chance at survival and recovery,” Miller also noted in a statement. “This is an important step, but the Fish and Wildlife Service should also protect these imperiled animals in the Cascades.”

The Center petitioned for protection of the red fox in 2011, and filed lawsuits in 2013 and 2019 to force the Service to decide on the animal’s protection.

The Sierra Nevada red fox once was found throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains, but populations have declined dramatically due to poisoning and trapping, habitat destruction from logging, and livestock grazing, as well as disturbance from off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. Trapping the species is now banned in California.

One small isolated population with an estimated 18 to 39 adults remains in the Sierras, mostly in and around Yosemite National Park. This causes the foxes to experience increased competition for food with coyotes. They are also jeopardized by inbreeding due to their small population size and hybridization with non-native red foxes.

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