Visitor Counter

hitwebcounter web counter
Visitors Since Blog Created in March 2010

Click Below to:

Add Blog to Favorites

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

Subscribe via email to get updates

Enter your email address:

Receive New Posting Alerts

(A Maximum of One Alert Per Day)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

We are in the 2nd Winter of a Bitteroot Mountains,Montana Wolverine Study being conducted by the National Forest Service..............Wildlife cameras are capturing the fur pattern of the "snapped" Wolverines...........The fur pattern on a Wolverine's chin and underside is unique and distinctive, making it relatively easy to distinguish one Wolverine from another..............Biologists feel that they are getting more immediate data via this mode of research versus the hair samples previously sought to obtain from the animals and then have that hair DNA analyzed in the lab(which took forever to get back results)...........No one at this time knows exactly how many Wolverines occupy the Bitteroots.............With home territories that can range from 40 to 350 square miles, the Wolverine was never overly abundant............Therefore, with Climate hange working against these animals prospects(female wolverines need deep snow persisting into the Spring so as to build enduring dens to birth their young), these current studies are considered critical in obtaining data that will help to best manage their Bitteroot habitat for optimum population density in the years ahead

Researching the wolverine: Biologists set up photographic monitoring sites in Bitterroot for reclusive animal

LOST TRAIL – It seemed like the perfect spot for a wolverine to visit.
A couple of miles back from the nearest road and surrounded by the kind of thick timber that offers a wary critter a good bit of security, the little nook selected by a crew of Bitterroot National Forest researchers to set their first long-term photographic monitoring site had all the makings a good place to rendezvous with wolverines.

“After awhile, you just kind of know what to look for,” said Chris Fillingham. “You go with your gut and what you’ve seen works before.”
Over the past two winters, Bitterroot Forest technicians Fillingham and Tanya Neidhardt have become the local experts on finding the places where a wolverine might venture.
Using carrion scavenged from roadkill that’s tied to a tree and then monitored with motion-sensor cameras, the pair has worked closely with Bitterroot Forest biologist Andrea Shortsleeve to begin unraveling some of the secrets of one of the Northern Rockies’ most reclusive creatures.
On this day, the three hiked a couple of miles to check a new type of bait station that they hope will help them speed up the process of identifying wolverines that venture in close enough to get their photograph taken.
The new setup was adapted from one developed by biologist Audrey Magoun in Alaska.
Instead of simply tying a piece of meat to a tree with a trail camera pointed in the general direction, the new bait platform requires a wolverine to climb up a tree, across the short length of two-by-four and through a box that’s lined with two rows of alligator clips ready to snap shut on its fur.
Once through that obstacle, the wolverine then has to rise up to reach the carrion that’s hanging just overhead.
All the time it’s doing that, the motion-sensor camera is taking photographs of the fur pattern on its chin and underside.

“The pattern of that fur is basically like our fingerprints,” Shortsleeve said. “Every one is unique.”
In the past, the researchers have depended on DNA collected from hair wolverines left deposited on brushes stuck in the tree to help them determine how many individual animals they had captured with their cameras.
That’s a time-consuming process.
“We’ve been waiting over a year to get back our results on DNA,” Shortsleeve said. “With this method, we’ll be able to identify individual animals as soon as we look at the picture.”
The photos will also tell them if they’re looking at a male or female. Toward spring, the researchers will be able to see if the females are nursing offspring.
Before the winter is over, they plan to set up a total of 12 new bait platforms in both the Bitterroot and Sapphire ranges. The hope is they’ll return every winter to same spot for the next decade.
A volunteer group from Missoula has stepped forward to help this winter.
That group will set out about 25 bait stations in the northern end of the Bitterroot Valley in both mountain ranges.
“We should have most of the major drainages monitored this winter,” Shortsleeve said. “I don’t know of any other national forests that will have this kind of data that we’re collecting through this effort.”
The information gathered in the study could be helpful in future decisions on how wolverines and their habitat should be managed in the future.
In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to apply Endangered Species Act safeguards for the reclusive member of the weasel family. Eight conservation groups filed suit in October in Montana seeking to reverse that decision.
Resembling a small bear with a bushy tail, wolverines once ranged from New York to as far south as Arizona. Biologists estimate that about 300 remain in the lower 48 states, mostly in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Shortsleeve said she doesn’t know how many wolverines call the Bitterroot home.
A wolverine’s home range is considered somewhere between 40 and 350 square miles. The males tend to travel greater distances. One wolverine made a trek from Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains all the way to Berkeley, California.
“They definitely can cover some ground,” Shortsleeve said.
The research team’s cameras have found that wolverines move through a lot of different kinds of countryside on their continual search for food. They’ve found them in areas burned bare by recent wildfires and down in the lowlands.
“They don’t just sit on the top of the mountains at the highest points,” Fillingham said. “They use it all. From the highest peaks to the valley floor, they are everywhere.”

We have previously reported on State University of New York Biologist jacqueline Frair's exstensive 5 year 2007-2012 Eastern Coyote research in the Empire State......Her peer reviewed data suggests a minimum of 15,000 breeding pairs of "Songdogs" reside in New York, found in every county(Coyotes in every borough in NYC as well as on Long Island)......With annual litters averaging 6 to 12 pups and estimating on the conservative side that 25% of them survive their first year on the planet, there could be 45,000 or more Coyotes at the peak of their yearly cycle(early Fall, prior to winter) in NY................Frair acknowledges that Coyotes are opportunistic on their killing of Deer fawns (normally, fawns most vulnerable during the first three weeks of their lives) each Spring,,,,,,,,,,,,,But very little evidence of any real consumption of Adult deer(perhaps 10% of weakened Winter stressed deer) except for scavenged animals............Frair further concludes that just like the findings from nearby Pennsylvania biologists, Coyote predation on fawns is not causing state deer herds to shrink........As in Pennsylvania, NY also has a healthy black bear population who also dines on fawns and even with this symbiotic predation, there is still no evidence of deer herds being dampened.............I again say that the recent South Carolina research intimating that coyotes are tamping down deer in the southeast seems skewed in someway to augment human hunting and agricultural groups desire to rId their woods of a competitor...............REALISTICALLY, EASTERN WOLVES AND PUMAS ARE THE TRUE "EQUILIBRIUM BALANCING AGENTS" NEEDED IN OUR EASTERN WOODLANDS IF WE ARE TO HELP OUR REGENERATE THEM TO OPTIMUM DIVERSITY AND BRING DEER HERDS BACK DOWN TO THE 6 TO 12 PER SQUARE MILE DENSITY THAT EXISTED FOR MILLENIA PRIOR TO EUROPEAN "CLEANSING" OF OUR CARNIVORE SUITE

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Jacqueline Frair studies coyotes and their impact on the state's landscape.Frair, an associate professor at SUNY ESF and associate director of the Roosevelt Wildlife station at the college, headed a ground-breaking, five-year study of coyotes that began in 2007 and ended in 2012. The study, which was paid for by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, attempted to look at the impact of coyotes on the state's deer numbers and tried to get a handle on how many coyotes there are statewide.

In general, she and her team concluded that coyotes, which dine on a wide variety of animals and plants, prey heavily on fawns during the spring and early summer. Also, that the numbers of live adult deer that are preyed upon during the winter months are relatively small - limited mainly to deer that are either crippled by health or other reasons.
This part of the study was done by tranquilizing and then putting radio collars on coyotes and tracking them afterward to analyze their kills in both the summer and winter. It's Frair's opinion that enough fawns do survive through the summer. She added that with the relatively small numbers of adult deer that seem to be taken during the winter by coyotes, the state's overall deer population is "minimally" affected.
coyotekill.jpgIt's difficult to determine whether a coyote actually killed an animal or was just scavaging. Frair said. "Of 62 deer carcasses found in our study that collared coyotes had visited, we could determine cause of death at 39 and only 3 of those were actually killed by coyotes. That means less than 10 percent (1 in 10) of the carcasses a hunter sees in the woods might be caused by a coyote. 
The current state hunting season for coyotes (from Oct. 1 to March 29) is the longest hunting season in the state. The idea is to knock coyote numbers down at a time that is closely tied to when deer are the most vulnerable -- before the fawns are dropped, Frair said.

Frair noted research by her team and others indicate coyotes, which first appeared on the New York scene in 1925, are "everywhere" in this state - including Long Island and in many suburban and urban areas.

Prior to Frair's research, there was no existing baseline study done on coyotes in New York, nor did researchers have any idea of the state's "carrying capacity" for the animals. Frair's research involved the use of automated, coyote-calling devices in numerous areas and listening for the return howling or barking responses. Using sophisticated triangulation and statistical methods, her team identified more than 15,000 breeding pairs across the state - with an average of nearly 2.5 per 10-square mile area in Central New York.
"That doesn't include those coyotes that didn't respond to the calls, the ones that haven't established a territory, that are roaming about and those that now live in suburban and urban areas," she said. "We really don't have a total amount. The total is most likely double or more from what we found."

How does Central New York measure up against other parts of the state in regard to numbers of coyotes?
We're up there. There's less in the Hudson Valley and in the Central Plains area (south of Lake Ontario).

How did coyotes get here?
There were essentially two waves of migration that brought coyotes into New York. They are not a native species. The first record of a coyote in New York was in 1925. The first wave came here over the Great Lakes, through Canada and down into the Adirondacks and surrounding areas. The second wave came under the Great Lakes in the 1940s and spread into Western New York.(NOTE THAT COYOTES ARE NORTH AMERICAN NATIVE ANIMALS AND THEY ARE NOT EXOTIC CREATURES-----THEY SIMPLY HAVE EXPANDED THEIR RANGE DUE TO US HUMANS KILLING OFF THEIR COMPETITORS, WOLVES AND PUMAS-BLOGGER RICK)

What about coy dogs - animals that are half coyote, half domestic dog?

When coyotes first came here they had a hard time finding mates and got desperate. They ended up mating with feral dogs on the landscape. Current genetic studies of coyotes show that there's a little bit of dog and Eastern wolf (obtained from their northern migration) in them, but its mostly coyote. There are not a lot of "coy dogs" anymore.
Apart from man, what animal preys on coyotes?

Wolves. They're the only animal out that will keep coyote numbers down. Coyotes will avoid them. In addition, wolves put year-round pressure on coyotes.

How dangerous are coyotes?
All wild animals can be dangerous. The problem with coyotes is the same as with bears. Once humans start feeding them and they get habituated to that, they lose their fear of humans. In most cases, they're more interested in killing your dog or your cat. However, there have been a number of instances of coyotes attacking humans across the country.

How wily or smart are they?
Coyotes have to be smart. We know they're extremely adaptable. You can easily hunt wolves out of a system, but not coyotes. They figure out ways to get around you. You have them living in downtown Chicago. This animal has to be very clever to live in cities and suburbs and have people hardly know they're there.
coyotepupsgood.jpgControling coyote populations are difficult because one you bring the numbers down, the females tend to have larger litters of pups to compensate. 
There was a recent predator calling hunt for coyotes, foxes and bobcats that generated a lot of negative feedback from animal rights groups and others. Without taking a position on competitive hunting competitions, what does research by wildlife biologists show about the impact of hunting and trapping on coyote populations?
Well, the competition you're talking about (which featured 55, two-person teams that took a total of six coyotes) did not even make a small dent in the local coyote population. 

Research has shown that even when concerted efforts by government officials and others are taken to bring coyote numbers down (using poison, hunting them from airplanes/helicopters, etc.) that this animal has a whole bunch of mechanisms in place to survive. They start producing bigger litters, more females start producing litters - and with the reduced numbers to compete for food, more pups survive. And soon after the pressure is taken off - say within a few months to a year -- they'll be back on the landscape at the same level or even in greater numbers.

It really isn't a question about whether given enough effort, we could reduce coyote numbers. It's rather a question of whether we could achieve enough effort through regulated hunting to make a difference in overall coyote numbers. The consensus seems to be that damage permits enable landowners to manage coyote numbers on small parcels, like individual farms, but over large landscapes hunting alone simply will not be sufficient to set a lower overall limit on coyote numbers.

To read a summary of Frair's study, click on this link:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

So far, only a handful of documented cases of Florida Pumas swimming across the Caloosahatchee River to attempt to stake out new territory outside of Southwest Florida.........Hemmed in by the "engineered" and difficult to cross fast flowing river, the Pumas are at carrying capacity in their artificially confined southern tier habitat.......While 3 males have made it across the river, no documented females have accomplished the feat..........They of course, are the key to a reproducing 2nd colony of the big cats in the central region of Florida.............Three criteria must be met before the federal government considers removing the Florida panther from the endangered species list................... First, there must be a population of at least 240 panthers— that’s the number geneticists have deter- mined as providing enough biodiversity to sustain a healthy population................... Second, the population of 240 must be sustained for 12 years, which is two full panther generations................... Finally, the population must be present in two distinct areas..................... This ensures that in the event of a natural disaster, at least one group would likely survive............ Getting panthers north of the river is the key to fulfilling this third requirement...........................While many residents in this currently unoccupied Puma region are leery of the Cats taking up residence there, biologists feel strongly that eventually a female will make it there and that she and her kittens will slowly begin to fan out through Charlotte, Glades, DeSoto and Sarasota counties................ One generation at a time, they’ll reclaim the lands they roamed freely a century ago.................... From Southwest Florida they’ll travel northward until they meet their next big hurdle: I-4, the river of concrete.............Lets get to this next hurdle and subsequently overcome it by installing wildlife culverts under and over the I 4 so as to one day have Pumas branching out again over the whole of the southeastern states


Florida Panthers: Swim to Survive?

With their living space south of the Caloosahatchee River contracting, panthers may have to cross it to keep their population viable.

Photo by Brian Hampton

There was a time when the Caloosahatchee was a mild-mannered river, twisting through Southwest Florida like a blue satin ribbon spooling off a roll. Back before September of 1881, when the first dredging machines arrived in Fort Myers, back before the dykes and the locks and the canals, back before humans decided we could engineer the Caloosahatchee better than the river could. Before all of it, panthers paddled back and forth with ease.
In those days, everywhere was panther territory. The big cats roamed as far west as Texas and as far north as Arkansas. But along came the dredger. And with it came the cold-weather pilgrims: believers that sun in January would be their salvation.
As the human population grew, the panther population dwindled. And as the dredgers turned the Caloosahatchee into a deep, swift river with steep banks, panthers stopped crossing it. By the early 1990s, only 20 to 30 Florida panthers remained in the wild, all of them marooned on the single spit of still-undeveloped land south of the river.

Twenty years later, the cats have made a comeback. It’s estimated there are somewhere between 100 and 180 Florida panthers inhabiting our corner of the state.
Unfortunately, their recovery is stalling. “We may be at or near habitat-carrying capacity in Southwest Florida,” says Dawn Jennings, the Florida Panther Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Big cats need big space—an adult male usually has a home range of between 150 and 200 miles. But there is no more space. If anything, development in eastern Collier County means there’s less room than there was two decades ago.
So, young panthers cross I-75 and other major roadways as they search for a bit of unoccupied territory to call home. If they accidentally stumble onto the land of another male panther, they risk being killed in a fight; intra-species aggression is the second-most common cause of death for a panther. And if they wander far enough, they eventually reach the Caloosahatchee River. On
its steep banks the cats must make a decision: try and cross or risk life on the overcrowded side.

The Caloosahatchee isn’t just a decision point for the panthers, though. Humans involved with the recovery
of the Florida panther all agree that getting the animals to cross the river
is pivotal to the subspecies’ continued recovery. But exactly how to get them across—and how to get residents north of the river to welcome an apex predator—is more complex.

The Lonely Gang of Three

In the past few years, biologists and wildlife officials have confirmed that
at least three male cats have already taken the plunge. “Panthers definitely can swim. They don’t have an aversion to it,” says Dr. Jennifer Korn, a Florida panther specialist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “They’re not like tigers where they love the water.” But they’re also not like housecats. “The thing is, if you’ve seen the Caloosahatchee, you know it’s pretty formidable.”

Given that male panthers are naturally inclined to roam, it’s no surprise that they’ve been the first across the river. But what researchers are really waiting for is the day when that first female ventures across. “The females have a tendency not to move very far from their den sites,” Jennings says. “So they’re kind of going to creep along [getting] closer and closer to the river. We’re assuming the females will eventually cross and that then the males will be very happy,” she adds.

If they don’t cross, biologists may decide to “assist” them. However, assisted migration is an issue that makes most biologists just a bit queasy; it’s interventionist in a way scientists prefer not to be. “We’d much rather see them disperse and expand on their own than try to relocate them,” Jennings says. “If the cats can find their own way, it’s just a much better situation for them.”

Building Bridges

Three criteria must be met before the federal government considers removing the Florida panther from the endangered species list. First, there must be a population of at least 240 panthers— that’s the number geneticists have deter- mined as providing enough biodiversity to sustain a healthy population. Second, the population of 240 must be sustained for 12 years, which is two full panther generations. Finally, the population must be present in two distinct areas. This ensures that in the event of a natural disaster, at least one group would likely survive. Getting panthers north of the river is the key to fulfilling this third requirement.

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle for getting female cats across the river may not actually be the river. “It’s really as much of a people issue as it is a panther recovery issue,” Jennings says. In 2013, the FWC hired Korn specifically to keep an eye on this new, north-of-the-river population. While she has a Ph.D. in wildlife science and a master’s degree in wildlife ecology, right now she has to spend a lot of time just being the panthers’ public relations consultant. “Once you get north of the Caloosahatchee, most of the land is private land,” she explains. “People south of the river are used to living with panthers, but people north of the river aren’t.”

Because panthers are so crowded in their current habitat, more and more human-panther interactions are occur-ring. And those interactions draw lots of media attention. People north of the river hear what’s going on and think, “Not in my backyard.”

Even those who have coexisted with panthers for years don’t necessarily love it. Aliese “Liesa” Priddy
is a commissioner for FWC, but she also owns a commercial cattle ranch just a few miles from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. As a commissioner, she understands the importance of maintaining Florida’s unique ecosystems. As a rancher, she knows losing even a single calf can cost her thousands of dollars.

Technically, the federal government should reimburse Priddy whenever
a panther depredation occurs on her land. Panther attacks, however, are sometimes hard to prove. “Usually the prey is dragged into very thick vegetation and it’s covered up and there’s very little of it remaining. And unless you can prove you lost an animal to a panther and it’s confirmed, you won’t be reimbursed,” she says. Plus, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re short one calf on a commercial ranch. “It’s not like a hobby farm in Golden Gate Estates where one day you have four goats and the next you have three.

“It’s not that we don’t like panthers; it’s that we don’t like panthers killing our calves.” Really, what Priddy wants is for the cats to recover to the point where they’d be removed from the endangered species list. That would mean regulations would loosen. “Right now you can’t harass them in any way,” she says. “With bears, you can do hazing by shooting a beanbag near them, but with panthers that would be considered harassing them.”

Fears of increased government regulation—beyond not being able to deal with nuisance panthers—is one of the biggest sticking points Korn is running into. “Some of the landowners here have an overall bad taste in their mouths already with government, and that’s totally understand- able,” she says. “But what they need to know is that we’re not going to come and take their land. It’s just not going to happen. We don’t have that kind
of funding. I think working lands
are great lands; we want you to keep working your lands. We just don’t want you to turn them into concrete.”

She and her partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are plotting out incentives for landowners—some of which involve cash. And progress is happening. In the past year, Korn has installed 32 remote cameras across 10 counties—most on private property.
“I try not to cold-call people. I try and meet people through other people; I go to a lot of Rotary Club meetings,” she says.

Whether ranchers are ready for the arrival of the first female panther or not, researchers promise she’s coming. After she fords the river, she and her kittens will slowly begin to fan out through Charlotte, Glades, DeSoto and Sarasota counties. One generation at a time, they’ll reclaim the lands they roamed freely a century ago. From Southwest Florida they’ll travel northward until they meet their next big hurdle: I-4, the river of concrete.

Aren’t These Just Texas Pumas?

Prior to 1995, the Florida panther population had become so small and
inbreeding was so rampant that the kitten
mortality rate was incredibly high. Conservation biologists had to make a choice:
bring in new genetics by introducing a
different subspecies or watch as the tiny
population continued to languish. They 
chose the former, importing eight female
pumas from Texas. “I think it was the best
choice they could have made,” says Dr. Melanie Culver, a U.S.G.S. geneticist at the University of Arizona. At the time, Culver was mapping the genetic ancestry of Puma concolor for her doctoral dissertation. Though her research was not concluded when the Texas pumas were selected, it would ultimately show Texas pumas were about the closest relative Florida panthers had. In fact, it’s believed that before modern civilization took hold in the Southeast, Texas pumas and Florida panthers regularly interbred.

The two, however, are considered separate subspecies, which means they have slightly different physical and genetic characteristics. But how different are they? That’s something we may know more about next year. Currently, Culver has a graduate student who is sequencing the DNA of both a Texas puma and a Florida panther. “A year from now we’ll know exactly how much of the Florida genome was retained and how much Texas was retained,” she says. She adds that the two will likely be more than 99 percent identical. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences between the two. Humans and chimps share 98 percent of the same DNA, and while we’re different species, not subspecies like the Texas puma and the Florida panther, it’s a good example of how small amounts of variation in DNA can translate to big differences.(NOTE THAT MOST RESEARCHERS CONSIDER

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The small, remnant Sierra Red Fox that inhabits northern California got a public relations "visiblitiy boost" with a lone "Sierra Red" spotted via a camera trap in Yosemite National Park on January 4...........This is the first verified sighting of this endangerd canid in Yosemite in the last 100 years!...........Never thought to be abundant(From 1940 to 1959, 135 pelts were taken by trappers and that number shrunk down to 2 pelts a year by the 1970's), the "Sierra Red" historically was found in alpine dwarf-shrub, wet meadow, subalpine conifer, lodgepole pine, red fir, aspen, montane chaparral, montane riparian, mixed conifer, and ponderosa pine habitat................ Jeffrey pine, eastside pine, and montane hardwood-conifer also saw usage by this fox species.................. These Foxes exisited alongside the marten and wolverine in these forest types. ..............This fox at one time inhabited the northern California Cascades eastward to the northern Sierra Nevada and then south along the Sierran crest to Tulare County.............Thought to be exterminated a century ago due to logging and cattle grazing destroying their preferred habitat, in 2010, a small population of these foxes(at most 15 individuals) were verified to be alive in the Sonora Pass region, north of Yosemite............Park Researchers will begin work with other conservation organizations to seek to give the "Sierra Red" every possible chance to re-wild successfully across it's historical terrain

A photo of the Sierra Nevada Red Fox taken by Yosemite’s motion-sensitive camera.

Rare Sierra Nevada Red Fox Sighted

 In Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park officials said a rare
Sierra Nevada red fox has
 been sighted in the park for the first time in
nearly 100 years.
Yosemite officials say park wildlife biologists
had gone on a five-day
 backcountry trip to the far northern part of the
 park to check on 
previously deployed motion-sensitive cameras.
 They documented 
a sighting of the fox inside the park on two
 separate instances in 
mid-December and on January 4.

The Sierra Nevada red fox of California is one
of the rarest 
mammals in North America, likely consisting
of fewer than 50 individuals.
"We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of
the Sierra Nevada 
red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals
in the Sierra 
Nevada,” said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National ParkSuperintendent, 
in a news release. “National parks like Yosemite
provide habitat for all
 wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red
fox was sighted in the park.”

The Park says the nearest verified occurrences
of Sierra Nevada red 
foxes have been in the Sonora Pass area, north of
 the park, where 
biologists from UC Davis, California Department
 of Fish and Wildlife,
 and the U.S. Forest Service have been monitoring
a small Sierra 
Nevada red fox population, first documented by
the USFS in 2010.
Prior to 2010, the last verified sighting of a
Sierra Nevada red fox in 
the region was two decades ago, according
to Yosemite officials. 
“Confirmation of the Sierra Nevada red fox
in Yosemite National Park’s 
vast alpine wilderness provides an opportunity
to join research partners
 in helping to protect this imperiled animal,”
 said Sarah Stock, Wildlife 
Biologist in Yosemite National Park. “We’re
excited to work across our
 boundary to join efforts with other researchers
 that will ultimately give 
these foxes the best chances for recovery.”
The Yosemite carnivore crew will continue to
survey for Sierra Nevada 
red fox using remote cameras in hopes of
detecting additional individuals, 
officials said Wednesday. At each camera
station, the crew also set up 
hair snare stations in the hopes of obtaining
hair samples for genetic analysis. 

Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator)


Red Fox
The Sierra Nevada red fox is distinguished from members of the introduced lowland population of red foxes by its slightly smaller size and darker colored fur.  Red fox fur was sought after by trappers during the early part of last century because it was softer than California's grey fox. Sierra Nevada populations have been reduced by grazing in meadows, which reduces prey populations, and by trapping, logging, and recreational disturbances. Human activities of any significant degree in areas of core habitat will certainly put pressure on this highly endangered species. Given the low numbers of the Sierra Nevada red fox and the increase of non-native red fox population, particularly in the Central Valley of California, competition from this non-native species is increasingly a concern for the Sierra Nevada subspecies.


The range of the Sierra Nevada red fox is limited to the conifer forests and rugged alpine landscape of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges between 4,000 feet and 12,000 feet. Preferred habitat for the Sierra Nevada red fox appears to be red fir and lodgepole pine forests in the subalpine zone and alpine fell-fields of the Sierra Nevada. Open areas are used for hunting, forested habitats for cover and reproduction. Edges are utilized extensively for tracking and stalking prey. The red fox hunts in forest openings, meadows, and barren rocky areas associated with its high elevation habitats. Found mostly above 6,000 feet in the summer months, Sierra Nevada populations were historically found in a variety of habitats, including alpine dwarf-shrub, wet meadow, subalpine conifer, lodgepole pine, red fir, aspen, montane chaparral, montane riparian, mixed conifer, and ponderosa pine. Jeffrey pine, eastside pine, and montane hardwood-conifer also are used. This species is known to inhabit vegetation types similar to those used by the marten and wolverine. The range of the Red fox is from the northern California Cascades eastward to the northern Sierra Nevada and then south along the Sierran crest to Tulare County.


The current range and distribution of Sierra Nevada red fox is unknown.  Because of this and the scientific certainty of its hazardously low numbers, greater research is needed to ascertain the full extent of the red foxes range. Recent research conducted in the vicinity of Lassen Peak, has begun the process of understanding exactly how rare the native Sierra Nevada red fox is. This research conducted in the late 1990's estimated that only 10-15 individuals were likely present in the Lassen Peak area--a number certainly low enough to cause concern over the possibility of localized extinction and highly endangered status throughout its historic range. Other historical evidence related to the Sierra Nevada red fox has led scientists to believe that it likely never occurred in large numbers.  From 1940 to 1959, 135 pelts were taken by trappers and that number shrunk down to 2 pelts a year by the 1970's.  It is possible that red fox numbers were declining before these statistics were collected but in either case the Sierra Nevada red fox has certainly been in serious trouble for a very long time. The State of California banned red fox trapping in 1974.


Until this summer (2010), the only known current population has been in the vicinity of Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park, and also within Lassen National Forest. Periodic sightings have been reported by inexperienced observers throughout the rest of the Sierra Nevada but have not been documented by experts. In August, Forest Service biologists retrieved photographs from a bait station trail camera near Sonora Pass. DNA retrieved from saliva found on the tooth punctures in the bait bag was then analyzed by canid researchers Ben Sacks and Mark Statham at the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. Sacks and his colleagues confirmed that the DNA was from the rare Sierra Nevada red fox.

The Sierra Nevada red fox is genetically very distinct from red fox populations in coastal lowlands, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. These red foxes are derived from introduced foxes from the eastern United States (and Alaska). The Sacramento Valley subspecies is a genetically distinct native species, however.

The Sierra Nevada red fox is so uncommon that the California Fish and Game Commission declared it threatened in 1980 and it is considered critically endangered by the California Department of Fish and Game. The U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station lists the Sierra Nevada red fox as a sensitive species.

According to a UC Davis press release, research from Sacks and his colleagues includes these findings to date:
  • There are native California red foxes still living in the Sierra Nevada.
  • The native red foxes in the Sacramento Valley (V.v. patwin) are a subspecies genetically distinct from those in the Sierra.
  • The two native California subspecies, along with Rocky Mountain and Cascade red foxes (V.v. macroura and V. v. cascadensis), formed a single large western population until the end of the last ice age, when the three mountain subspecies followed receding glaciers up to mountaintops, leaving the Sacramento Valley red fox isolated at low elevation.

Scientific Research

Supporting Resources

California Department of Fish and Game Natural History Information (URL) --This California state website contains rather limited and old information but is a good basic background composite for the species. Choose from a drop-down list to select the animal you are interested in.

When everyone first started to do email back in the late 90's, I used TREEMAN as my email address ..............For me, while the desert, prairie and ocean all have their greatness, the forest has always been my place for relaxation, exploration, recuperation and solitude...............Thought many of you would enjoy looking at some of the 19th century maps depicting the forest cover of the USA in 1884, when 75% off the woodland that blanketed the forested regions of our Country had already been converted to other uses................At this point in time, forest cover is a full 30% less than in 1630, with resulting adverse impacts for our suite of carnivores and prey species of animals

old tree maps---click on this link for all maps
Below is forest cover in 1884 America

Click on the images below to reach
zoomable versions
, or visit the collection's page on the 
David Rumsey website.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

John Laundre's LANDSCAPE OF FEAR comes to mind as new research from U. Of California Researchers have determined that female Pumas who have their territories close to human habitation tend to kil 36% more deer and Elk than those who do not........Seems that the "Cats" concern of being hunted and persecuted by us causes them to abandon kills faster and leave them only partially consumed..............The article below seems to convey that this is a bad thing as more prey animals get killed than otherwise would............I pose this question: Is it really so bad that this occurs based on the fact that deer densities are ungodly high in close to human settlement?.............On the other hand, if indeed the female Pumas are "stressed" because of poor eating habits and therefore having compromised litters of kittens, then indeed the "landscape of fear" as it relates to us humans putting all types of stress(hunting, trapping/habitat alteration, etc) on these big cats is a bad thing

Fear of Humans May Drive Pumas Towards 'Wasteful' Hunting

Jan 26, 2015 12:24 PM EST
We all know that human activity can influence the lives of nearby animals, especially those top predators that now have to play second fiddle to our ever-expanding interests. However, a new study has shown that not only do our actions impact them, but also our mere presence may cause majestic killers like pumas to grow so fearful that they change their hunting habits for the worse. (Photo : Flickr: Tambako The Jaguar)
We all know that human activity can influence the lives of nearby animals,
 especially those top predators that now have to play second fiddle to our ever-expanding interests. However, a new study has shown that not only do our actions impact them, but also our mere presence may cause majestic killers like pumas to grow so fearful that they change their hunting habits for the worse.
What they found was startling. In areas near a higher density of human housing, female pumas in particular were found to kill about 36 percent more large prey - mainly deer - than the more "rural" pumas.That's at least according to a new and fascinating study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which details how, among pumas living in California, those living closest to humans were found to kill a lot more prey, but eat less of each kill, compared to pumas in more wild and secluded areas.
This was determined after a team of scientists from the University of California captured and tagged 30 wild pumas with GPS collars so they could track their movements. The territory and hunting grounds of these animals were then identified, breaking the pumas up into those that are living either near more rural or suburban human environments. The team also investigated kills, measuring just how much of each kill was eaten before a puma elected to slip away.
Strangely, it wasn't that the suburban pumas were hungrier. Instead, it appears that they are eating less of each kill - revisiting kill sites less frequently and spending less time taking their meals, compared to your average puma.
So what's driving these pumas to act so differently? Fear of humans, the researchers suggest, is likely the primary cause. Female pumas are generally more cautious when hunting and eating compared to their male counterparts, largely because they are expected to birth and raise cubs.
That, of course, leads them to making an effort to avoid humans, even if that means smaller meals.
Unfortunately, "the loss of food from decline in prey consumption time paired with increases in energetic costs associated with killing more prey may have consequence for puma populations, particularly with regard to reproductive success," the researchers report, saying that this extra caution may all be for naught.