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For Immediate Release, April 27, 2011

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, (928) 310-6713

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Sierra Nevada Red Fox

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Sierra Nevada red fox as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Native to remote, high elevations of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains of California and Oregon, the Sierra Nevada red fox is now known to occur in only two perilously small populations near Lassen Peak and Sonora Pass, which represent about 4 percent of its historical range.

“There probably aren’t more than 50 Sierra Nevada red foxes left, which ranks them among North America’s rarest and most extinction-prone mammals,” said the Center’s Taylor McKinnon. “The Endangered Species Act offers their best hope for recovery.”

Until last fall, the fox was thought to be confined to one relict population near Lassen Peak. Using remote camera monitors, biologists detected three foxes near Sonora Pass last August and September. Genetic tests of saliva confirmed that they were Sierra Nevada red fox.

The Sierra Nevada red fox has been listed as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act since 1980. In 2010 researchers extended the subspecies’ historical range northward through Oregon’s Cascade Mountains to the Columbia River. The last possible sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in Oregon occurred in 2001.

“The California Department of Fish and Game has had 31 years to recover this rare fox,” said McKinnon. “The fox’s perilous condition shows the failures of California’s recovery efforts and underscores the need for a consistent, range-wide federal recovery plan.”

The fox is threatened by domestic livestock grazing, off-road and over-snow vehicles, logging, a disease related to fish-stocking, competition and predation by coyotes, and shrinking mountaintop habitat in the face of global warming. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to decide whether the petition presents enough information to warrant possible federal protection for the fox.

To download the petition, click here.

To read more about the fox, click here.

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