Last week, diners at Epic Cafe at the south end of town observed a red fox running through the cafe’s lawn at night, sniffing for scraps dropped by messy eaters.
Not only is this stunning creature beautiful for visitors to observe, it is also quite rare in the area and the sighting sparked the interest of local agencies, including Yosemite National Park and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. It has the potential to be an extremely rare Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator), a subspecies of the more widespread red fox (Vulpes vulpes). It could also be a non-native subspecies with Great Basin or fur farm ancestry. The only way to tell for sure is to gather genetic data—either fur or scat.
The Mono Lake Committee jumped into action to help the other agencies gather more information about the fox. With the help of Yosemite National Park Biologist Sarah Stock, we set up motion-triggered wildlife cameras and baited hair snares to see if we could gather fur for genetic testing. These hair snares are simply a line of brushes with copper wire screwed to a tree trunk with a sock filled with bait (chicken) dangling above it. This entices the animal to reach up and brush against the wires while they sniff the bait. The cameras capture it so we know which animal approached the bait.
I’ve been checking the cameras daily and have seen some exciting critters pass through our little town! It is amazing to think about what goes on in town when we are all warm in our beds.