There may be as little as 20 Sierra Nevada Red Foxes left in the mountain ranges of the Sierra and South Cascades, or as many as fifty. Either way, the are living on the brink of extinction, but haven’t been given endangered species status. Recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they will begin a review to see if they will grant that legal protection, the red foxes undoubtedly deserve.
The process for adding a species to the endangered list is sometimes so lengthy by the time a new addition is officially confirmed, the species might already be almost gone, and therefore the legal protection does nothing to prevent the extinction.
Hundreds of species are still stuck in government red tape in a legal sense, while their populations remain subject to the same conditions causing declines in their numbers. An agreement between government agencies described as an improvement in the process, still will take six years to make decisions on 251 species.
The review to determine whether to list the Sierra Nevada Red Fox as endangered requires is supposed to take only one year, but why has it taken so long for them to do the review?
Last year one of the very rare foxes was photographed near the Sonora Pass in California. It was the first sighting of one in so many years, some people believed they had been driven into extinction there.
Currently logging, off-road and over-snow vehicles, livestock grazing and fish stocking are threatening its mountain habitat. Also climate change is causing hotter, drier conditions which reduces the number of prey in their traditional habitat, so they have less to eat and have to move higher into the mountains. The Center for Biological Diversity says the Sierra red foxes are at high risk for extinction. A species of chipmunk is believed to have vanished from the Sierra due to climate change altering their habitat.
Image Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service