Rare Sierra Nevada Red Fox Spotted at Yosemite National Park

PHOTO: A Sierra Nevada red fox was spotted on a motion-sensitive camera in Yosemite National Park, Dec. 13, 2014.

A Sierra Nevada red fox, one of North America’s rarest mammals, was spotted in Yosemite National Park for the first time in nearly 100 years, authorities announced.

The fox was spotted using motion-sensitive cameras on two separate occasions, Dec. 13, 2014, and Jan. 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,” said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent, in a statement. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”

According to a media release by the National Parks Service, red foxes have previously been seen north of the park in the Sonora Pass area. The Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator) is slightly smaller, with darker fur than other red foxes. Fewer than 50 of the foxes are thought to exist today.

The species’ stability was addressed in a 1937 book by Joseph Grinnell, “Fur-bearing Mammals ofCalifornia.”

“The Sierran red fox is present in such small aggregate numbers, and lives so far removed from human settlements, that it rarely if ever comes into conflict with man’s activities; on the contrary it benefits man by producing a very valuable pelt,” Grinnell wrote.

As fewer and fewer of the pelts were collected — just two a year by the 1970s, according to NPS — the species was added to the state-threatened list in 1980. According to the National Parks Service, relatively little is known about the foxes because of the rarity of sightings.