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Sierra Nevada red fox spotted on Sonora Pass

UC Davis researchers' recent confirmation that Sierra Nevada red fox is still roaming the forest 200 miles further south than thought could ignite a political battle about endangered species, according to an article by Michael Doyle of McClatchy News Service.

The story appeared in the Sunday Fresno Bee, but online was only available on the Miami Herald website.

California law currently protects the fox, but the federal Endangered Species Act does not. According to the McClatchy story, it is a long, politically charged process to add an animal to the federal list, and the local congressman, George Radanovich, is unlikely to support such a move.

"Our state water supply has been hijacked by the radically irresponsible Endangered Species Act," Radanovich said in a House speech last year, according to the story.

A Sept. 2 UC Davis news release about the red fox find has captivated the media. The release, picked up by dozens of news outlets and blogs, said DNA analysis of saliva from the tooth punctures on a bait bag allowed UC Davis wildlife genetics researchers Ben Sacks and Mark Statham to determine for certain that the animal is a Sierra Nevada red fox.

"It's got a genetic signature that we haven't seen outside of the skulls and skins of museum specimens collected before 1926," Sacks was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. "So we now have two small, isolated populations, and we don't know how big the second group is. That's about as endangered as you can get."

Federal biologists, UC Davis genetics researchers and university students began setting up additional monitoring stations and cameras to try to determine the size and health of the Sonora Pass population.

"It is very unusual to discover a new large animal species," a Forest Service spokeswoman told the Times. "In this case, it was like finding a rare jewel in a totally unexpected place."

UC Davis wildlife genetics researcher Ben Sacks holds a native Sacramento Valley red fox.
UC Davis wildlife genetics researcher Ben Sacks holds a native Sacramento Valley red fox.

Posted on Monday, September 13, 2010 at 6:29 AM
Tags: endangered species (15), red fox (2)

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