In early 2015, with support from a Conservancy donor-funded project focused on rare carnivores, biologists reported the first sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite in nearly a century. Scientists estimate 20–30 of the foxes live in and around northern Yosemite, forming a key, but little-studied, population of one of North America’s rarest mammals.

Your support allowed Yosemite’s carnivore team to continue studying this rare species in the park in 2016, with a focus on learning more about the fox population’s geographic distribution and genetic makeup, and to study the animals that share its habitat, including competitors, such as coyotes and American martens, and prey, such as Douglas squirrels.

In March, remote cameras in Yosemite’s northern wilderness yielded two additional detections of the fox, for a total of five sightings in just over a year. The team hiked hundreds of miles to collect scat samples for analysis, install additional cameras, and check “hair snare” stations, a valuable source of genetic material. One pair of researchers even had the chance to observe one of the rare carnivores firsthand, unfiltered by a motion-activated camera lens, when they happened upon a female fox during their first survey hike of the season.

Thanks to your support, results from this important research can inform efforts to protect the Sierra Nevada red fox, ultimately leading to a self-sustaining population of the species in Yosemite. Your gifts helped scientists continue their focus on ensuring that a rare wild creature can thrive in its alpine home.  Thank you for supporting your park!

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and University of California, Davis.


Travis Espinoza

Wildlife Biologist, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

This project provides park managers and researchers with a snapshot of the status of a variety of high-elevation species in a remote section of the park. We will have vital information for taking proactive steps toward population recovery of the Sierra Nevada red fox.