Rarely seen Sierra Nevada red fox getting attention in Oregon

BEND, Ore. — In a dense forest at the base of Mount Bachelor, two wildlife biologists slowly walked toward a small cage trap they hoped would contain a rare red fox species. Jamie Bowles, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife technician in Bend, and Tim Hiller, founder of the Montana-based Wildlife Ecology Institute, stepped carefully as branches crunched under their feet.

For the past year, the state wildlife agency and Hiller’s organization have worked together to trap and place radio collars on Sierra Nevada red foxes, a rarely seen subspecies recently discovered roaming in the Oregon Cascades. Officials have no idea how many live in Oregon, and fewer than 100 live in Northern California.

On the sunny Friday morning in June, the trap was empty, as were two other traps the biologists set near Mount Bachelor.

“This is a typical day for us,” Bowles said. “Not having anything in the traps.”

But the past year has been a success for their efforts to study the Sierra Nevada red fox, which they began researching in 2012.

When a fox was trapped and given a radio collar in May 2017, it was hailed as a first for Oregon wildlife biologists, who suspected the small mammals were here, but had little proof.

Since, six more have been captured and given collars. Last month, Bowles collared three in one week, two of them in one day.

In addition, hikers and campers have steadily reported Sierra Nevada red fox sightings in the last 12 months.

The collars, programed to stay on the foxes for one year, track the foxes as they move through the area. Data shows the collared foxes stay in an 8-mile radius near Mount Bachelor. The biologists believe the foxes have become comfortable around people and are relying on being fed or are rummaging for food in dumpsters at the Mt. Bachelor ski area.

Their reliance is not safe for them or people and their pets, Bowles said. The foxes can carry diseases, such as rabies.

“This is not ideal that they are foraging for food out of the trash cans or begging for food,” Bowles said. “These foxes seem to be resort foxes.”

Outside of the Mount Bachelor area, more people are reporting sightings of the Sierra Nevada red foxes. People are seeing them in the high elevations mountains, such as the Three Sisters Wilderness, but also in lower elevations areas in Tumalo and Terrebonne.

Citizen reports are helpful for the biologists. The foxes were thought to only live in high elevation above 4,500 feet. Bowles and Hiller have 16 traps set in various elevations across the region where the foxes have been seen.

“We are finding them in places we didn’t expect to find them,” Bowles said.

A huge component of the study is learning more about their range and dispersal, the biologists said.

“We want to know what habitat they are utilizing,” Bowles said. “Both in the high, mid and low elevation now that we know they have dispersed lower.”

When the study began in 2012, it relied on trail cameras and fur and scat collection. The initial work found the foxes living in the Oregon Cascades including Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington. It gave the biologists an area to set traps and begin tracking the foxes. Each trap consists of bait, usually pieces of roadkill deer, to lure the foxes.

The study is funded through federal grants and support from various agencies. Hiller estimates the grants and in-kind support is valued at about $100,000. The study has funding for another year, during which the biologist hope to collar and track 13 more foxes.

The High Desert Museum supports the study through its own carnivore-monitoring project in the Deschutes National Forest. The museum has 13 trail cameras set up to capture video of animals, including the Sierra Nevada red fox.

The museum hosts an educational program for local children and their families that allows them to take home a trail camera for six weeks and capture images of passing animals.

Last year, one family in the program captured valuable footage of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the lower elevation of Dry Canyon in Redmond.

Jon Nelson, curator of wildlife at the museum, said he regularly gets tips from people about Sierra Nevada red fox sightings. Just this week, someone reported seeing a den. Nelson passed the tip on to the biologists.

“The museum’s role has been to educate the public and increase awareness about the species,” Nelson said. “As a result, there are a lot of people in the community who are looking for them or recognize them when they see them.”

DNA samples collected off the collared foxes have been sent to a laboratory at the University of California, Davis. The results confirmed the foxes are Sierra Nevada red foxes and they are living in lower elevations than originally thought, Bowles said.

The DNA data could confirm if the Oregon foxes are able to breed with the California foxes. If so, that could boost each region’s population.

Sierra Nevada red foxes in California are on a waiting list for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. In Oregon, there is not enough information about the foxes to be on a federal listing. But the foxes are an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species, which means the species’ population is unknown and could be at risk and also may be in need of conservation efforts.

Within the conservation strategy, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking answers about the foxes’ population, how they use their dens and how they interact with coyotes, Hiller said.

The biologists are learning about the species. The Sierra Nevada red foxes are generally smaller, weighing about 8 pounds. They have similar characteristics to other red fox subspecies in the West, including the Cascade and Rocky Mountain red fox.

Hiller said he always assumed the foxes spotted in Oregon were Cascade red foxes because Sierra Nevada mountains seemed too far away. Hiller is not sure if these Oregon foxes are native or came from California. But through his research, he discovered the Columbia River acts as a barrier between the Sierra Nevada red foxes to the south and Cascade red foxes to the north in Washington and British Columbia.

“It’s pretty unlikely for a fox for swim a river like that,” he said.

Sierra Nevada red fox fur is usually silver, red or a mix of both. All of them have white fur on the tips of their tails and on their chests. Each also has dark fur on their legs and the tips of their ears.

Of the seven with radio collars, two are red, one is silver and the rest have mixed colored coats. Five of them are female.

“There are variations in between just like people,” Bowles said.

Hiller and Bowles use a computer program to follow the collared foxes. They also use a large, manual antenna that makes a beeping noise if a fox is near.

After checking the three empty traps, Bowles returned to the main parking lot at Mt. Bachelor ski area and grabbed the manual antenna out of her pickup truck.

If the antenna beeps quickly it means the radio collar has not moved in four hours — the collar fell off or the fox died. That happened recently when one of the seven foxes was found dead in a trap intended for a marten, a weasel-like mammal.

On this particular day, no fox died. Slower beeping from the antenna helped Bowles locate one of the collared male foxes. It was roaming in the forest near Todd Lake.

Bowles could not hide her excitement. It never gets old, she said. And for a rare species, every discovery is important.

“I keep track of my foxes weekly,” Bowles said. “They do seem to move around a lot.”


Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com

VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like