YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — Yosemite National Park officials reported Wednesday the first confirmed sighting of a rare Sierra Nevada red fox in the park in nearly 100 years.
Park wildlife biologists had gone on a five-day backcountry trip to the far northern area of the park to check on deployed motion-sensitive cameras when the sighting occurred, according to a Yosemite National Park news release. The biologists documented a sighting of the fox on Dec. 13 and Jan. 4 within the park boundaries.
The Sierra Nevada red fox of California is one of the rarest mammals in North America, likely consisting of fewer than 50 animals, the news release said. The nearest sightings of Sierra Nevada red foxes were in the Sonora Pass area, north of Yosemite National Park, in 2010. However, prior to 2010, the last verified sighting of the red fox species in the region was 20 years ago.
“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,” Yosemite National Park superintendent Don Neubacher said in the news release. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”
In 2011, the Center for Biological Diversity created a petition to place the Sierra Nevada red fox on the Endangered Species Act Protection.
“Despite 31 years of protection as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act, Sierra Nevada red fox remains critically endangered and in imminent danger of extinction: it is today restricted to two small California populations,” the petition said.
The Sierra Nevada red fox is currently only protected by the state of California, as one of 14 mammals protected by the state.
“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,” Yosemite National park wildlife biologist Sarah Stock said in the news release. “We’re excited to work across our boundary to join efforts with other researchers that will ultimately give these foxes the best chance for recovery.”
Biologists will continue to survey and study the rare animals using the remote cameras throughout the park.