Rare Red Fox Spotted at Yosemite for the First Time in 100 Years

The sighting of a rare Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park for the first time in 100 years has caused a major stir among park officials and wildlife enthusiasts who hope to see these foxes return.

The fox was caught by a camera trap set out by wildlife biologists who were hoping to catch a glimpse of these foxes and Pacific fishers, both extremely rare animals in the park, as part of a study funded by the Yosemite Conservancy. Kari Cobb, a spokeswoman for the park, told the LA Times the last time there was a confirmed sighting in Yosemite was in 1915.

“We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”

California’s Sierra Nevada red fox, a distinct subspecies of red fox, isn’t just rare for the park, it’s one of the rarest mammals in North America. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), there are likely fewer than 50 individuals left in the wild, but there could now be as few as 15.

There’s no single reason known for their decline, but wildlife officials believe their low numbers may be the result of a combination of factors including habitat destruction and fragmentation, diseases from domestic dogs and competition with other species such as coyotes.

The camera in this case caught the fox taking a stroll through the snow in a remote northern corner of the park on Dec. 13, 2014, and again on Jan. 4 of this year. Park officials are still trying to determine whether it was the same fox caught on the two separate occasions and will be using “hair snare traps” to get DNA samples to determine whether any foxes in Yosemite are related to a small population in Sonora Pass outside the park.

redfox                                                          Credit: National Park Service

While the Sierra Nevada red fox is protected under California’s Endangered Species Act, they are still not federally protected. The FWS is expected to announce whether they’ll be listed later this year and the sighting has offered hope that with increased conservation efforts and protection, they may yet make a comeback.

“Confirmation of the Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park’s vast alpine wilderness provides an opportunity to join research partners in helping to protect this imperiled animal,” said Sarah Stock, Wildlife Biologist in Yosemite National Park. “We’re excited to work across our boundary to join efforts with other researchers that will ultimately give these foxes the best chances for recovery.”

You can support conservation efforts for the Sierra Nevada red fox by helping wildlife officials keep track of them if you ever happen to spot one in the Sierra Nevada or southern Cascade region by reporting your sighting to California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife here and to researchers at the University of California, Davis who are studying them here.

Photo credit: National Park Service

304 comments

Melania Padilla
Melania P3 years ago

So gorgeous!!!

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Colleen Prinssen
Colleen Prinssen4 years ago

this is good, but it is always better when you transplant subspecies of a kind of animal to new parts, like the new American wolves.

Is The Serria Nevada Red fox that differnt from all the other red foxes? if the subspecies of wolf from Northren Canada is good enough, then won't a Japanese red fox be good enough to replace other red foxes?

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Angela K.
Angela K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing, what a beautiful being !

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

Honestly, if I were lucky enough to see one of these foxes I don't think I would tell anybody, least of all FWS. I do not trust them. They do more harm than any good towards wildlife and I believe if the foxes were trapped and collared it would just make it easier for someone to track and trap them. But I am really glad to see that one at least is still around.

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maria reis
maria reis4 years ago

Very good news.

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Michael Guest
Michael Guest4 years ago

I hope this rare animal gets protection.

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Glenda L.
Glenda L4 years ago

Such beautiful creatures, I wish trapping was illegal.

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Eileen Mary P.
Eileen P4 years ago

We have loads of the red foxes here in Brighton UK. They are urban and many of them have become semi-tame because people feed them. They're really cute.

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