Sierra Nevada red fox to be listed as federally endangered

RENO, NEVADA (AP) — The slender, bushy-tailed Sierra Nevada red fox will be listed as an endangered species, federal wildlife officials announced on Monday, saying its population has dipped to just 40 animals in area of California stretching from Lake Tahoe to south of Yosemite National Park.

The United States (US) Fish and Wildlife Service decided against listing a distinct population of the foxes in the southern Cascade Range of Oregon and near Lassen Peak in Northern California.

But it said in a listing rule, published in the Federal Register yesterday, that the Sierra Nevada segment south of Tahoe “is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range”.

“While the exact number remains unknown and is also subject to change with new births and deaths, it is well below population levels that would provide resiliency, redundancy and representation to the population.”

It provided no estimate of the number of red foxes remaining in the Cascade Range.

One of the rarest mammals in North America, the red foxes in the Sierra already are vulnerable due to threats of wildfire, drought, competition in coyotes, reductions in prey and inbreeding with non-native foxes.

Additional future threats include climate change, as scientists project continuing loss of snowpack and of the general subalpine habitat to which the Sierra Nevada population segment has adapted, the agency said.

This will likely lead to increased numbers of coyotes in high-elevation areas and to increased competition between coyotes and Sierra Nevada foxes for prey, the service said.

File photo provided by the National Park Service from a motion-sensitive camera shows a Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park. PHOTO: AP