On March 6th, a 10-pound female red fox walked into a box trap near Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was the second red fox caught in the area in three weeks, after a 10-pound male was captured just outside the park in Mineral on February 13th. The captures were a huge victory for researchers as they’ve been trying to capture the animal for over a decade.
After the animals were captured, state wildlife biologists took blood samples, conducted field examinations and equipped them with tracking collars before being released. The testing was a breakthrough in learning about the endangered animal that has been elusive to researchers since for over 30 years.
In 1980, the red fox was listed as a threatened animal in California. When scientists attempted to intensify their studies of the animal in 2008, they were committed to capturing one for study. 10 years later, these are the first two they’ve caught, and now their tracking devices will allow scientists to understand the red fox’s home range and how it uses its habitat. They also hope to learn about its den sites and reproductive rates.
The Sierra Nevada red fox once thrived in the mountainous areas of Northern California, including the Lassen area and the Sacramento Valley. But populations have declined immensely in the past century, likely because the size of their unique high-elevation habitat has shrunk.
Researchers caught this video of the elusive fox in Lassen in 2011:
Much has already been learned by the two captured red foxes. For example, the male fox traveled seven miles a day around the peaks in Lassen, a surprisingly quick travel rate. Now that scientists can track the animals, they will have an easier time locating and capturing the others in the den. The researchers hope to capture at least four more red foxes in the next calendar year.
Although you may not see them, vast species of wildlife call NorCal wilderness their home. It’s so much fun to be able to learn about these creatures and their habits. Isn’t science cool?