Sierra Nevada Red Fox Declared Endangered: Another Victim Of Climate Change

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This slender, bushy-tailed animal has been a victim of wildfires, drought, and habitat destruction. Now the Sierra Nevada red fox has been designated a protected species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), noting that the population living south of the Tahoe Lake was vulnerable to extinction across its entire range.

The listing further said that the population of the Sierra Nevada red fox was much below the level that would offer resiliency and redundancy and represent its dwindling population. The exact numbers remain unknown.

Their number has also been affected by competition with coyotes, inbreeding, and reduced availability of their natural food. Trapping and poisoning have further decimated their population. Hunting of Sierra Nevada red fox was banned by California in 1974.   

Climate change has also exerted its hold in this region as there has been a substantial loss of extended snow cover and a dwindling sub-alpine habitat which the red fox calls its home.

This change will bring the coyotes to these higher altitudes leading to an increase in competition for dwindling prey. The red fox was thought to have gone extinct around 2 decades ago but a small population was found in 2010, remnants of a herd.

Sierra Nevada Red Fox Was Declared Endangered After Lawsuits Filed For Its Inclusion

sierra nevada red fox

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition in 2011 for giving federal protection to the red fox and also filed a lawsuit in 2013. A second lawsuit was filed in 2019. The FWS finally proposed adding the Sierra Nevada red fox to the list of endangered species in 2020.

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But the agency is yet to propose designation of critical habitat as they believe that habitat is not a critical factor at present for these foxes.

This subspecies of the red fox are among the 10 sub-species of the endangered red fox. This small carnivore reaches lengths up to 3.5 ft. (1.1 mt.) and has extended snouts, large tails, and pointed ears.

Less than 39 animals remain, mainly south of State Highway 88 in California, starting south from Lake Tahoe to the east of Yosemite Park, and also parts of Mono, Alpine, Inyo, and Fresno counties. Most live to the north of Yosemite.

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