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For Immediate Release, December 30, 2011

Contact: Justin Augustine, (415) 436-9682 x 302

Sierra Nevada Red Fox One Step Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

SAN FRANCISCO— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is beginning a full status review on whether the Sierra Nevada red fox warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. The decision comes in response to a scientific petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity in April of this year, which documented that the fox is now limited to just two perilously small populations near California’s Lassen Peak and Sonora Pass. The fox once ranged throughout the Sierra Nevada and Cascades in California and Oregon.

“There are about 50 of these beautiful animals left, eking out a living in about 4 percent of their historical range,” said the Center’s Justin Augustine. “But the Endangered Species Act can save them if it’s used — the Act has a 99 percent success rate saving species from extinction. The government’s decision to study this irreplaceable fox through a status review means the fox is one step closer to getting the protection it needs to survive.”

During the summer, Sierra red foxes prefer high-elevation habitats; during the winter they rely on lower elevation, mature, closed-canopy forest. Until recently, these foxes were thought to be confined to one relict population near Lassen Peak, but remote camera monitors detected three foxes near Sonora Pass in the summer of 2010. Researchers recently extended the fox’s historical range northward through Oregon’s Cascade Mountains to the Columbia River, but the last possible sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in Oregon occurred in 2001.

The fox has been listed as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act since 1980, but little has been done by the state to recover the species. Today’s decision from the Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that the fox’s small population size, combined with threats like ORV use, means the species is at high risk of extinction.

“Federal listing is the best hope for saving this animal,” said Augustine. “We look forward to the status review and hope the Sierra red fox will get the Endangered Species Act protections it needs and deserves.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service has one year to complete its status review and decide whether the Sierra red fox should receive protection.

To download the Center’s petition, click here.

To read more about the fox, click here.

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