Sunday, July 9, 2017
Red Fox on the Tuolumne River
After traveling several thousand miles through half a dozen national parks, you'd think I would be tired of watching for wild animals, but no, that never happens. It was a nice surprise this morning to see this Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) on my more or less daily walk along the Tuolumne River. This is the first time I've had a chance to get more than just a couple of quickly snapped pictures.
I've seen them a few times before in the area (one of my pictures of a fox is on the interpretive sign at the beginning of the trail), but it's been many months since I've spotted any. I'm pretty sure they've seen me more than I've seen them. This one was working its way across the slope where the metal stairwell climbs to the parking lot at the west end of the Tuolumne Parkway Trail. It's probably getting used to humans, as the new trail has proven popular.
There are two subspecies of Red Fox (out of around 45 worldwide!) that are native to central and northern California. One, the Sierra Nevada Red Fox, is exceedingly rare and lives only in the high country north of Yosemite National Park (it was recently sighted in Yosemite for the first time in a century). Another, the Sacramento Valley Red Fox, lives in the Great Valley north of Sacramento. This individual is neither; it is probably a descendant of foxes brought to the valley in the 1860s for hunting and fur production. The Red Foxes have adapted well to urban and agricultural development in the Great Valley (I've seen them on my mid-valley college campus), and they contribute to the control of rodent pests, but they may also be a detriment to the survival of the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox, which has lost a vast amount of habitat and has a population of just a few thousand.
I saw a native Gray Fox in this same area several years ago. I don't know if they are co-existing, or if one has replaced the other.