U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

News Release

Sierra Nevada Red Fox to be Considered for Endangered Species Act Protection

December 30, 2011

Media Contacts:

Robert Moler, (916) 414-6606, robert_moler@fws.gov

Sarah Swenty, (916) 414-6571, sarah_swenty@fws.gov

The Sierra Nevada red fox will be considered for federal protection as a threatened or endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today, following an initial review of a petition seeking to protect the fox under the Endangered Species Act (Act.)

The Service will undertake a more thorough status review of the species to determine whether to propose adding the species to the federal lists of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants.

Today’s decision, known as a 90-day finding, is based on scientific information about the species provided in a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to list the species under the Act. The Service has determined that there is sufficient information in the petition to conduct a more detailed examination of the species. The petition finding does not mean that the Service has decided it is appropriate to give the fox federal protection under the ESA. Rather, this finding is the first step in a long process that triggers a more thorough review of all available biological information.

To ensure this status review is comprehensive, the Service is soliciting information from state and federal natural resource agencies and all interested parties regarding the fox and its habitat. This announcement opens a 60-day public comment period, which closes March 5, 2012. The Service encourages submission of any relevant scientific and commercial data regarding this species. Useful information for the review includes biological information, genetics, habitat needs, historic and current range and populations, habitat and conservation measures.

Based on the status review, the Service will make one of three possible determinations:
1) Listing is not warranted, in which case no further action will be taken.

2) Listing as threatened or endangered is warranted. In this case, the Service will publish a proposal to list, solicit independent scientific peer review of the proposal, seek input from the public, and consider the input before a final decision about listing the species is made. In general, there is a one-year period between the time a species is proposed and the final decision.

3) Listing is warranted but precluded by other, higher priority activities. This means the species is added to the federal list of candidate species, and the proposal to list is deferred while the Service works on listing proposals for other species that are at greater risk. A warranted but precluded finding requires subsequent annual reviews of the finding until such time as either a listing proposal is published, or a not warranted finding is made based on new information.

The Sierra Nevada red fox, one of 10 subspecies of red fox in North America, occurs in two small and isolated populations in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The subspecies can be distinguished from other red fox subspecies based on morphology (form and structure), coloration, and habitat use. This subspecies is typically red, but can occur in black or silver phases. With an elongated snout, large ears, slender legs and body, and a bushy tail with a white tip, the Sierra Nevada red fox is generally smaller than other red fox subspecies in North America.

Historically, the species occupied the high elevation areas of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges from Tulare County, California, north to the Columbia River in Oregon. Currently the Sierra Nevada red fox’s distribution is thought to be restricted to two small populations: one in the vicinity of Lassen Peak at the most southerly extent of the Cascades range, and one in the vicinity of Sonora Pass, approximately 160 miles to the south in the Sierra Nevada range. 

Anyone wishing to submit information regarding this species may do so in one of the following two ways:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal:  http://www.regulations.gov.  Search docket FWS-R8-ES-2011-0103 and follow instructions for submitting comments.
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2011-0103, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. 

Comments must be received within March 5, 2012. We will not accept e-mail or faxes. We will post all information we receive on http://www.regulations.gov.

The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.

The Act makes it illegal to kill, harm or otherwise "take" a listed species, or to possess, import, export or engage in interstate or international commerce of a listed species without authorization in the form of a permit from the Service. The Act also requires all federal agencies to minimize the impact of their activities on listed species, and directs the Service to work with federal agencies and other partners to develop and carry out recovery efforts for those species. Listing also focuses attention on the needs of the species, encouraging conservation efforts by other agencies (federal, state and local), conservation groups and other organizations and individuals.

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

Last updated: December 4, 2017