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Supposedly extinct red fox discovered near Yosemite National Park

September 5, 2010 |  8:19 pm


The genetic signature of canine slobber on a bait bag of chicken scraps and a fuzzy photograph snapped by a motion-sensitive camera north of Yosemite National Park have confirmed the existence of a supposedly extinct red fox, the U.S. Forest Service announced this week.

“The last known sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the Sonora Pass area was sometime in the 1920s,” said Mike Crawley, Bridgeport District ranger. “Needless to say, we are quite surprised and excited by this find.”

Federal wildlife technicians Emily Crowe and Julien Pellegrini were checking hundreds of photographs when they came across an over-exposed image taken at 2:17 a.m. on Aug. 11 of what appeared to be the rare red fox with a characteristic white-tipped tail trying to get at the bait bag dangling from a tree.

The Sierra Nevada red fox (vulpes vulpes necator) lives at high elevations, eating small mammals and birds. They have a reddish-colored head, back, and sides; black backs of the ears; black "socks" on their feet, and a white-tipped tail.

However, the only known population of the Sierra Nevada red fox is a group of roughly 20 animals clinging to survival in the Lassen Peak region, about 150 miles to the north.

Read the full story at Greenspace, The Times' environmental blog.

--Louis Sahagun

Photo: Sierra Nevada red fox in Lassen Peak region/Keith Slausen, US Forest Service