According to this morning’s online version of the Los Angeles Times, a recent photo has the Forest Service in the Sierra extremely excited. The photo was taken on Aug. 11 and has been positively identified as a Sierra Nevada red fox. The fox is extremely rare and until the recent photo was thought to only still exist in the Lassen Peak region, 150 miles north of Sonora Pass where the photo was taken. The population in the Lassen Peak region has been counted at approximately 20.
DNA from the fox in the photo was collected from a bait bag the animal had sunk its teeth into and was positively identified as a Sierra Nevada red fox, distinct from the Lassen Peak population.
“It is very unusual to discover a new large animal species,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Christie Kalkowski in the L.A. Times article. “In this case, it was like finding a rare jewel in a totally unexpected place.”
According to the article, the fox in the photo has a genetic signature that hasn’t been seen outside of museum specimens collected before 1926.
The article went on to say that it is unclear what implications the discovery will have on current marine corps training that takes place in Pickle Meadows near Sonora Pass, as well as the future of a proposed snowmobile crossing in the area.
The story was also covered by the Sacramento Bee.