Finding the Foxes: One of the most endangered animals in North America

Did you know that Sierra Nevada red fox (SN red fox) are ancestrally linked to ancient ice age foxes? Did you know that the SN red fox is one of the most endangered animals in North America?

Known populations of SN red fox are located in the Sierra Nevada range in northern California and Oregon’s Cascade range with visual and other evidence collected from the Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and Three Sisters wilderness areas. Studies in northern California estimate as few as 29 adult foxes live in the vicinity of Sonora Pass and another 42 live near Lassen Volcanic National Park. The total size of the Oregon population is currently unknown but estimated to be very small.

The SN red fox population was significantly reduced by wide-spread trapping causing the USFWS to designate it a threatened species in 1980. Recovery of SN red fox has been hampered by habitat loss and climate change.

Research in Oregon has focused on estimating the size of the population and range of the animal to help inform management policies and decisions that support its recovery.

The Foundation has helped fund several efforts in Oregon including a recent project led by Daniel and Catherine Gumtow-Farrior, a wildlife instructor/biologist and courtesy faculty researcher at Oregon State University-Cascades in Bend, OR. Our grant to their project enabled these researchers and three upper-level wildlife ecology students to determine whether SN red fox resides within Crater Lake National Park by collecting and analyzing scat samples.

The OSU Cascades research team recorded and collected the scat (poop) of multiple species including samples presumed to be SN foxes. They recorded the specific location and elevation of each sample before bagging it for genetic testing. Additional evidence, including hair and bones, were also collected. While their summer 2019 study results didn’t reveal the presence of SN red fox, they did find evidence of bobcat, coyote, and marten. The OSU Cascades team returns to the field this summer, 2020, with a plan to expand their search perimeter for SN red fox and additional carnivore species including gray wolves.

Our grant to the OSU Cascades wildlife ecology program provided valuable research experience to university students and data that will help Crater Lake National Park managers make informed decisions about activities within the park that might adversely affect wildlife.

Do you want to help promote conservation and help protect animals like the Sierra Nevada red fox? Consider donating to the Oregon Wildlife Foundation and helping fund conservation projects all across Oregon!