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Rare foxes spotted in Oregon may help California population

Associated Press

BEND, Ore. – Biologists are hoping a rare subspecies of foxes spotted in Oregon can help boost their number in California.

The Bend Bulletin reported Saturday that biologists captured and radio-collared two of the Sierra Nevada red foxes found in Oregon. There are believed to be less than 50 of the foxes living in Northern California.

Tim Hiller, a wildlife biologist and founder of the Wildlife Ecology Institute, began studying the Sierra Nevada red fox in 2012. He said he plans to capture and radio-collar eight more foxes within a year to continue the study.

“We don’t know their population status,” Hiller said. “Nobody has a clue.”

DNA samples are being sent to a laboratory at the University of California, Davis. Hiller said the lab work could confirm if the Oregon foxes are able to breed with the California foxes.

“This is really far down the road, but we could see if the Oregon foxes are similar enough to the California foxes that we might be able to augment those populations,” he said.

Sierra Nevada red foxes in California are on a waiting list for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Oregon foxes are not close to being on a federal listing, but are an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has questions about the Sierra Nevada red fox, specifically about its population dynamic, genetic information, seasonal habitat use and how it competes with coyotes. Hiller said the ongoing study will address these questions.

“We will continue to capture and collar them for at least another year,” Hiller said. “I intend to expand the project area and the duration of the project.”

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