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ODFW Seeks Volunteers To Help Track Sensitive Fox Species

SALEM, OR -- A new effort to study the Sierra Nevada red fox (SNRF) in the Central Oregon Cascades will soon get underway, with help from local volunteers. Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking for volunteers to help biologists track the sensitive species, specifically in the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests.

"There’s a lot of people already recreating out there and the more boots on the ground and eyes and ears we can get out to do this work, the better," says ODFW's Kaly Adkins, "Because it can be a needle in a haystack to find Sierra Nevada red fox scat." The species is notoriously elusive and difficult to track. One was collared in Deschutes County by wildlife biologists in 2017. 

Adkins says the SNRF lives in alpine and sub-alpine environments in California and Oregon, "Climate change is hitting those northern elevations the hardest and the fastest, so they’re losing habitat from above. And then also, predators that were traditionally not able to survive at those elevations - and not necessarily predators, but competitors, so coyotes, now are able to kind of creep up in elevation because of warming temperatures, and be able to compete with Sierra Nevada red foxes."

Biologists know the SNRF lives in three high-elevation areas of Oregon, "The Mt Hood area, so kind of the northern end of the Oregon Cascades, and then we have some in Central Oregon documented, and then also Crater Lake has documented." But Adkins says researchers want to know whether the animal travels between those areas. "There are spots in between the Cascades that seem like they should be suitable habitat, but there just hasn’t been the survey effort."

Volunteers will help check cameras in remote areas and need to be competent hikers. There will also be an opportunity to do some wildlife tracking on the way; picking up potential Sierra Nevada red fox scats. A volunteer training is planned for June third. Sign up to volunteer on this project by clicking HERE and select “Red Fox Tracking in Oregon Cascades - Support Role” on page two of the registration form.

If you’d like to help search for foxes on your own time, you can still participate in this project by sharing any observations of Sierra Nevada Red Fox through ODFW’s community science portal on iNaturalist. Instructions for submitting observations can be found at this link.

photo courtesy ODFW

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