SACRAMENTO, Calif. January 10, 2020 – Based on the best available scientific information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the Sierra Nevada distinct population segment (DPS) of the Sierra Nevada red fox is at risk of extinction due to a variety of factors, including the effects of small population size and continued hybridization with non-native red foxes.
The Sierra Nevada red fox, a subspecies of America’s common red fox, is one of the rarest mammals in North America. Today, it occurs only in two areas – California’s Sierra Nevada, near Yosemite National Park, and the southern Cascade Range of Oregon and California. The Sierra Nevada population is comprised of as few as 10 and no more than 50 adults. This low number, combined with threats to the remaining foxes, prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose listing the population as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This proposal is open for public comment for 60 days until March 9, 2020. The Cascades DPS of the fox is not proposed for listing.
The Sierra Nevada red fox is a small subspecies of red fox that is specially adapted to its native subalpine habitat, which is characterized by heavy snow, short growing seasons, and a mixture of open and forested areas. Despite its name, Sierra Nevada red foxes can be either mostly red, mostly black, or a greyish-brown “cross phase.” Historically, the fox ranged from the Oregon-Washington border to the southern end of the Sierra Nevada. By the early 2000s, some biologists believed the Sierra Nevada DPS to be extinct, but a small remnant population was confirmed in 2010 near Yosemite National Park.
Ongoing multi-agency and partner collaboration involving federal conservation agencies, Department of Defense, the state of California, universities and the private sector could help the species recover by developing conservation management plans while minimizing activities that fragment the forest and disturb breeding and denning foxes. Listing the Sierra Nevada DPS of the Sierra Nevada red fox under the ESA will help stimulate additional conservation partnerships and actions.
The proposal to list the Sierra Nevada DPS of the Sierra Nevada red fox will publish in the Federal Register on January 8, 2020. The publication will open a 60-day public comment period. The Service will consider comments from all interested parties received by March 9, 2020. Information on how to submit comments is available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS–R8–ES–2019–0006.
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