The photo that you see above is special. It represents the first confirmed sighting of a Sierra Nevada Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes necator), one of the most endangered mammals in all of North America. Until the more recent sightings, only a few dozen (maybe around 50) were known to remain around Lassen Volcanic National Park (see the photo below). The discovery was made thanks to motion-activated cameras deployed to survey wildlife. The rare fox was caught on film (well, on digital sensor...) twice, on December 13, 2014 and January 4, 2015.
“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,” stated 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.”
“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,” stated 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.”
The park scientists are also trying to get their hands on some hair using hair snare stations to be able to do a genetic analysis and figure out how the local individual(s) is related to other known populations.
The photo above was taken in 2002 as part of a study in Lassen Volcanic National Park, in Northern California.
Authorities seem slow to act in classifying the Sierra Nevada Red Fox as officially endangered:
The State of California banned trapping of the Sierra Nevada red fox in 1980, after annual pelt takes had dwindled to 2 per year by the 1970s. It is considered to be critically endangered by the California Department of Fish and Game. On April 26, 2011, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the federal government to protect the High Sierra fox under the Endangered Species Act. One serious threat to the Sierra Nevada red fox would be interbreeding with non-native red foxes which have been introduced into California's (Central Valley, San Francisco Bay Area and southern California) from America's eastern and midwestern populations. With only about 50 animals remaining, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Dec. 30, 2011 that it is beginning a full status review, in response to the petition. (source)
Hopefully the recent sightings mean that the Sierra Nevada Red Fox population is doing a little better, and with some more help from conservationists can be pulled away from the brink.