One of the most elusive creatures in North America has been caught on a trail camera in Yosemite National Park.
The Sierra Nevada red fox, a solitary and nocturnal creature with fewer than 50 remaining in the region, was captured on a trail camera in the park’s backcountry. The park said the image was taken in October, but only recently retrieved:
A subsequent tweet from the park said that it was the first time the fox ― a distinct subspecies of the more common red fox ― had been seen on a camera south of Tioga Pass Road since its surveys began in 2011.
“This is great news,” Frank Dean, president of the Yosemite Conservancy, said in a statement. “Amazing photos like this, combined with field surveys and genetic analysis, are helping researchers better understand these elusive mammals.”
The Sierra red fox was spotted in Yosemite via trail cameras in late 2014 and early 2015, the first sightings within the park in nearly a century:
The Center for Biological Diversity said the Sierra Nevada red fox is “genetically and geographically distinct from all other red foxes.” There are likely only two populations left, with fewer than 50 and perhaps fewer than 20 individuals. Those that remain are threatened by logging, off-road and over-snow vehicles, livestock grazing, fish stocking and climate change. Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing it as endangered, saying there may be as few as 10 adults remaining.
The Yosemite Conservancy has been using the cameras along with dogs to sniff out scat samples and find more traces of the fox. The organization has also been trying to obtain hair samples via “hair snares” for genetic analysis.