Reno: The slender, bushy-tailed Sierra Nevada red fox will be listed as an endangered species, federal wildlife officials have announced, saying its population has dipped to just 40 animals in area of California stretching from Lake Tahoe to south of Yosemite National Park.
The Sierra Nevada red fox is one of 10 North American subspecies of the red fox. The small, dog-like carnivores stretch about 3.5 feet (1.1 metre) long and have elongated snouts, pointed ears and large tails.
With deep winter coats and small toe pads, they are specially equipped to adapt to cold, snowy areas. They feed on small mammals
One of the rarest mammals in North America, the red foxes in the Sierra already are vulnerable due to threats of wildfire, drought, competition in coyotes, reductions in prey and inbreeding with non-native foxes.
Additional future threats include climate change, as scientists project continuing loss of snowpack and of the general subalpine habitat to which the Sierra Nevada population segment has adapted, the agency said on Monday.
This will likely lead to increased numbers of coyotes in high-elevation areas and to increased competition between coyotes and Sierra Nevada foxes for prey, the service said.
Some biologists believed 20 years ago the Sierra Nevada population already had gone extinct before a small remnant population was confirmed in 2010. California banned red fox trapping in 1974.