News Release

Small Subset of Sierra Nevada Red Fox Warranted for ESA Listing

Service finds subspecies not in danger of extinction across its entire range

October 7, 2015

Media Contacts:
California: Sarah Swenty, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, (916)414-6606 sarah_swenty@fws.gov
Oregon: Elizabeth Materna, (503)231-6179, elizabeth_materna@fws.gov

Sacramento - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that the Sierra Nevada red fox as a whole does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, a small population of the fox located north of Yosemite National Park is warranted-but-precluded from ESA listing by higher priorities at this time.

Photo of Sierra Nevada red fox

Photo Credit: US Forest Service

The most up-to-date scientific information available, some of it discovered since the time the Service was petitioned to list the Sierra Nevada red fox, shows it is more widespread than originally thought, residing in suitable habitat in Oregon as well as California. Based on this information, the Service determined that the Sierra Nevada red fox as a whole is not at risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.

A small distinct population segment in the Sierra Nevadas (Sierra Nevada DPS), however, faces significant threats and warrants listing under the ESA. Those include hybridization with nonnative red fox and the negative effects of reduced genetic diversity, inbreeding, and reproduction deficiency. Currently, listing the Sierra Nevada DPS subspecies is precluded by higher priority actions. It will be added to the candidate species list and a proposed rule to list it will be developed as priorities allow. Candidate species receive no statutory protection under the ESA, however, the Service encourages voluntary cooperative conservation efforts for these species because they are, by definition, species that warrant future protection under the ESA.

The Sierra Nevada red fox is one of 10 subspecies of red fox in North America. It is generally smaller than other red foxes in North America and has an elongated snout, large ears, slender legs and body, and a bushy tail with a white tip. It is typically red, but it can occur in black or silver forms.

All known populations of the subspecies are found on public lands. Prior to 2010, two small populations of fewer than 40 adults each were known to exist around Mt. Lassen Peak in the California Cascades, and Sonora Pass (north of Yosemite National Park) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Since that time, the subspecies’ range has been confirmed, via a combination of genetics and photographic evidence, to extend into the Oregon Cascades as far north as Mt. Hood, far beyond its historically known distribution in California. This includes individuals formerly thought to belong to a different montane subspecies that have now been confirmed to be Sierra Nevada red foxes.

The Service continues to request and will evaluate new information concerning the threats to and conservation of the subspecies. Continuing review will determine if a change in status is warranted, including the need to make prompt use of emergency listing procedures. Any new information that becomes available will help monitor the Sierra Nevada red fox and encourage its conservation.

More information about this species and today’s finding is available on the right sidebar.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.