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For Immediate Release, March 11, 2013

Contact:  Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 or (323) 490-0223,

Petition Filed to Protect Desert Kit Fox Under California Endangered Species Act

LOS ANGELES— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a petition to protect desert kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis arsipus) under the California Endangered Species Act. Already rare, the foxes are now threatened by disease and habitat loss; last year a mysterious canine distemper outbreak swept though part of their range, decimating local populations. At the same time, much of the animals’ habitat is being lost to large-scale energy projects under development in the California Desert.

“Development pressure, coupled with this recent disease outbreak, is really hurting desert kit foxes,” said Center biologist Ileene Anderson. “Protection under the California Endangered Species Act will give these beautiful little animals a hope of survival.”

A distemper outbreak was first documented among kit foxes on a solar project site in Riverside County in late 2011 and spread rapidly in the following weeks, killing numerous foxes in the region. The current status of the outbreak is uncertain, as wildlife agencies have little funding to study the disease.

While much of the desert kit fox’s habitat has been lost in recent decades to suburban sprawl, along with mining, off-road vehicles and livestock grazing, the biggest threat to the species’ habitat now consists of dozens of proposed utility-scale solar-energy projects in its range.

“Renewable-energy projects and the desert kit fox can likely coexist, but only with careful siting and thoughtful planning to avoid or minimize impacts,” said Anderson.  “Protecting the fox under the California Endangered Species Act will ensure that the well-being of this imperiled species is fully considered as these projects move forward.”

The housecat-sized desert kit fox is a key nocturnal predator, keeping rodent populations in check and acting as a bellwether for the health of its desert landscape. Its vacant burrow complexes provide refugia to numerous desert species, including imperiled burrowing owls. Three subspecies of kit foxes have called California home in living memory: the fox petitioned today; the San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica), which inhabits its namesake valley in Central California and has been listed as a state-threatened species since 1971, still in decline; and the long-eared kit fox (Vulpes macrotis macrotis), which once inhabited coastal Southern California but is now extinct.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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