California Discovers New Red Fox Subspecies is Native After All


The new subspecies is visually similar to this non-native red fox. Photo: Mike Baird via flickr

Fellow TreeHugger Kim just pointed out that WWF has released a list of the top endangered species to watch in 2010. It is the Year of Biodiversity, after all. Well, it seems California is kicking it off in style, with researchers discovering a new red fox subspecies in the midst of the hyper-developed Sacramento valley.

The story comes from the Sacramento Bee (via Mongabay):

Apparently the red foxes which have long-lived in the Sacramento Valley -- ones which had always been assumed to be a non-native species descended from foxes escaped from fur farms a century or so back -- are in fact a unique subspecies, unrelated to these escaped animals, the normal native grey foxes of California, and the Sierra Nevada red fox.

Genetic Testing Distinguishes Them From Non-Natives
This determination was made by researchers from UC Davis and Cal State Sacramento using genetic testing. To look at the them you wouldn't be able to tell the difference from the non-native red foxes. Both are about 18" tall and weigh in at about 25 pounds.

"Very adapted" to Living Among Humans
Armand Gonzales from the California Department of Fish and Game told the Bee, "I would say they're very adapted to living around humans. In fact, several foxes I've encountered have been in situations where they were living in a barn or under a deck in a residential area, and then preying on domestic chickens and things like that."

The big question that now looms is whether these newly-native foxes deserve special protection, something which researchers say requires more study.

Read more: Sacramento Bee
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Tags: Animals | Biodiversity | California

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