Yosemite National Park officials said a rare Sierra Nevada red fox has been sighted in the park for the first time in nearly 100 years.
Yosemite officials say park wildlife biologists had gone on a five-day backcountry trip to the far northern part of the park to check on previously deployed motion-sensitive cameras. They documented a sighting of the fox inside the park on two separate instances in mid-December and on January 4.
The Sierra Nevada red fox of California is one of the rarest mammals in North America, likely consisting of fewer than 50 individuals.
"We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent, in a news release. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”
The Park says the nearest verified occurrences of Sierra Nevada red foxes have been in the Sonora Pass area, north of the park, where biologists from UC Davis, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Forest Service have been monitoring a small Sierra Nevada red fox population, first documented by the USFS in 2010.
Prior to 2010, the last verified sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the region was two decades ago, according to Yosemite officials.
“Confirmation of the Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park’s vast alpine wilderness provides an opportunity to join research partners in helping to protect this imperiled animal,” said Sarah Stock, Wildlife Biologist in Yosemite National Park. “We’re excited to work across our boundary to join efforts with other researchers that will ultimately give these foxes the best chances for recovery.”
The Yosemite carnivore crew will continue to survey for Sierra Nevada red fox using remote cameras in hopes of detecting additional individuals, officials said Wednesday. At each camera station, the crew also set up hair snare stations in the hopes of obtaining hair samples for genetic analysis.