ADVOCACY • FROM A SECRETIVE SIERRA FOX TO THE NATION’S SMALLEST SEAHORSE
e Sierra Nevada red fox is one of North America’s
rarest mammals, inhabiting high-elevation reaches so secretively that one of its tiny populations wasn’t suspected to exist until early last fall. Fewer than 50 of the foxes survive in just 4 percent of their historic range
now increasingly encroached upon by threats from
logging to global warming — so the Center is seeking to protect them under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Safeguards sought for special Sierra Nevada fox
T o save one of the rarest, most elusive mammals in the Sierra Nevada — in fact, in North America — the Center this spring filed a federal Endangered Species Act petition to make sure the range’s few remaining red foxes don’t disappear altogether.
Genetically and geographically distinct from red foxes across the northern hemisphere, the slender, secretive Sierra Nevada red fox is down to an astonishingly low 50 or fewer known individuals. With such small numbers, reduced genetic diversity makes the fox extraordinarily vulnerable to the threats it’s faced for years, including livestock grazing; off-road and over-snow vehicles; logging; disease; competition with, and predation by, coyotes; and now the global warming-caused shrinking of its cool, high-elevation habitat.
The fox remains in about 4 percent of its historic range in only two populations, one near
Northern California’s Lassen Peak and one near Sonora Pass. The Sonora Pass population wasn’t even suspected to exist until last August and September, when remote cameras snapped footage of three red foxes stealing by in the darkness. No foxes had been verified south of Lassen Peak (200 miles away) since the mid-’90s.
Though the Sierra Nevada red fox has been protected under the California Endangered Species Act for 31 years, it’s continued to slip fast toward extinction.
Our petition requests much- needed federal protection — which will compel the development of a recovery plan, critical habitat protection and ramped-up research
before it’s too late for this
“What the fox needs are uniform, range-wide protections accompanied by a robust research and monitoring effort,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center. “A federal recovery program can deliver on those needs where the states have fallen short.” •
One-inch seahorse defended from immeasurable oil spill
T his spring the Center dove into action to protect the nation’s smallest seahorse from its biggest-ever environmental disaster.
With pollution persisting in the Gulf of Mexico a year after BP’s catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in April the Center petitioned to protect one of the region’s tiniest and most vulnerable denizens, the dwarf seahorse, under the Endangered Species Act.
The little fish lives only in shallow seagrass areas in the Gulf, along the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean. The BP spill has had a deleterious effect on the species because oil — and the chemical dispersants used to break it up — are toxic to both seahorses and their seagrass habitat.
Even before the oil-spill disaster, the seahorse was in dangerous decline due to habitat loss from pollution, boat and trawl damage and global warming — not to mention ocean acidification and commercial collection for its exquisite, curly-tailed appeal.
Since the seahorse can’t live without seagrass, the plant’s loss directly translates to seahorse population decreases — and since 1950, more than half of Florida’s seagrasses have disappeared, with similarly dramatic seagrass die- offs seen in the seahorse’s range in