Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 7, 2015

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

Sierra Nevada Red Fox Put on Waiting List for Endangered Species Act Protection

SAN FRANCISCO— In response to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today split a highly endangered mountain fox into two management groups and failed to protect either one of them. The Sierra Nevada red fox population in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains was added to a candidate waiting list, where it will languish with no actual protections. The red fox population in the Cascade Mountains in California and Oregon was denied protection entirely.

Sierra Nevada red fox
Sierra Nevada red fox photo courtesy USDA. This photo is available for media use.

“There’s no question that the Sierra Nevada red fox needs immediate Endangered Species Act protection throughout its range,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “Just like with the recent denial of protection for the Humboldt marten, this scientifically unjustifiable decision out of the Sacramento office reeks of political interference with the Endangered Species Act.”

The Center petitioned for protection for the fox in 2011 and filed a lawsuit in 2013 to force the Service to issue a decision on the animal’s protection. The fox has suffered drastic population declines due to logging, grazing, poisoning, trapping and off-road and over-snow vehicles. Trapping the species is banned in California but still legal in Oregon. Climate change is projected to dramatically shrink the fox’s habitat as warming pushes it farther up mountain slopes.

The red foxes live in remote, high mountains in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges south of the Columbia River. Only around 70 adults are known to survive in California, and the size of the small Oregon population is unknown. There are seven known sites where the fox is still found: Lassen and Sonora Pass in California, and Mount Hood, Mount Washington, Dutchman Flat, Willamette Pass and Crater Lake in Oregon. In January 2015 one of the rare foxes was spotted in Yosemite National Park for the first time in a century. The populations in the Sierra Nevada and Cascades are genetically distinct.

Active mostly at night, Sierra Nevada red foxes den in earthen cavities, winter in mature forest and summer in high meadows, fell fields, talus slopes and shrub lands. Their diet consists of rodents, small mammals, fruit, birds, insects and carrion. They are born into one of three color phases (red, black or cross) and are distinguishable from other native foxes by their black-backed ears and white-tipped tails. They have particularly thick and deep winter coats and furry toe pads that help them to walk over snow.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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