The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) exhibits a high degree of ecological plasticity, but the indigenous Sierra Nevada red fox (SNRF; V. v. necator) belongs to an evolutionarily divergent complex of montane red foxes, apparently specialized to subalpine habitats. Mountain red foxes historically occurred among isolated sky islands of the major mountain ranges of the western U.S., with the SNRF occurring along the Pacific Crest of Oregon and California. Little is known about the current distribution and status of SNRF in Oregon, which complicates regulatory decisions and impedes conservation of the subspecies. We conducted a survey in the northern Oregon Cascade Range during 2012–2014 using baited ground-level camera stations and noninvasive genetic sampling. Our objectives were to document red fox occurrences in our study area and investigate their genetic affinities using mitochondrial DNA sequences to indicate maternal haplotype. We detected red foxes at 11 of 41 camera stations and collected DNA from 18 of 24 hair and scat samples. Twelve of the DNA samples were from red foxes, and all were mitochondrial haplotype A-19 (the most widespread of the indigenous SNRF haplotypes), consistent with native ancestry. Additional research will be needed to assess the nuclear genetic integrity of these putative SNRF, their genetic effective population sizes, and their genetic distinctiveness with respect to the California SNRF and the Rocky Mountain red fox, and to describe patterns of connectivity among these potentially isolated populations.
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Vol. 89 • No. 4