The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced this week a 90-day finding (pdf) on a petition (pdf) submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity to list the Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat. As reported in the Sacramento Bee and the Modesto Bee, the Service stated that there is enough evidence to consider protecting the fox based on its small population, threats from off-road vehicles and disease transmission from dogs.
The fox, considered one of the rarest mammals in the United States, weighs about ten pounds, measures just over two feet, and generally lives only above an elevation of 7,000 feet. The current distribution of Sierra Nevada red fox is believed to be restricted to two small populations: one in the vicinity of Lassen Peak and the other in the vicinity of Sonora Pass. In 1980, the California Fish and Game Commission listed the species as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act.
Historically, the Sierra Nevada red fox occupied high-elevation areas of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges in California, ranging from Tulare County north to Sierra County, and from the vicinity of Lassen Peak and Mt. Shasta west to the Trinity Mountains in Trinity County. A recent study indicates that this range also included the southern Cascade mountain range in Oregon, as far north as the Columbia River.
Scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this subspecies must be received on or before March 5, 2012. Based on the status review, the Service will issue a 12-month finding on the petition, which will address whether the listing is warranted.