SciSun: Your photos are ready, Mr Fox!

An animal thought to be extinct has been seen again, and it’s a surprise to everyone!     This past summer, scientists from the US Forest Service were using remote-controlled photo equipment in the Sierra Nevada mountains to look for fishers and martins – two small ferret-like animals that live deep in the forest and are hard to find.   Surprisingly, the cameras took photos of the Sierra Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes necator), a type of fox not seen in this area since 1920, and thought to be extinct!  A few weeks later, two more red foxes were photographed, and samples of what the animals ‘left behind’ were collected for tests.   (Saliva and scat – poop.   Some scientists spend a lot of time looking at animal poop.  That’s just the way it is).  Forest Service and University of California scientists were able to tell all these animals were individuals, not just different photos of the same fox, so that means that there’s a good chance there are even MORE of these rare foxes in the forest, and they aren’t extinct at all!

Just as a review, extinct means an entire type of animal or plant is gone.   For different reasons, there weren’t enough individuals, or they were too far apart from each other, to reproduce and make families, and eventually every one of them died.   Like dinosaurs, or mammoths, or even some types of animals that became extinct not too long ago.  Once every one of a type of animal or plant is gone, there is no way to bring them back.

USFS Sierra Red Fox  9/10

"Hmm a bag of food on a tree. Nothing odd about this".

When no one had seen the Sierra Red Fox in this area for such a long time, they thought it was either very, very rare or even extinct.  But now that we know there are a few, scientists will be looking for more and trying to find ways the foxes can live safely.   One day, you might see a Sierra Red Fox!

Dig Deeper!

There are lots of great places to learn more about animals in the Sierra Nevada, and even the rare Sierra Red Fox! Here are a few to get you started:

http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/news/2010/snrf.shtml

http://www.nps.gov/yose/naturescience/threatened-mammals.htm

https://r1.dfg.ca.gov/Portal/SierraNevadaRedFox/tabid/618/Default.aspx

And always check out our local library!


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