Rocky Mountain Red Foxes in Northeastern Oregon
The Rocky Mountain red fox (Vulpes vulpes macroura) is one of three indigenous montane subspecies in the western U.S. This subspecies is distributed throughout the Rocky Mountains, including the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, but is thought to be rare in northeastern Oregon and other portions of its range.
By the 1960s, Rocky Mountain red foxes were thought to have been extirpated from Oregon, and replaced by populations of red foxes that originated from local fur farms that had foxes of non-native ancestry. However, individual foxes in northeastern Oregon still displayed phenotypic characteristic similar to the indigenous Rocky Mountain subspecies. Recent genetic evidence from samples collected from foxes killed by vehicles and from scat and hair samples collected at den sites suggests that individuals in montane areas are generally of indigenous ancestry, whereas lowland foxes are of mixed indigenous and non-native ancestry. Results of this component of the study is published in Northwestern Naturalist. Ongoing research includes an assessment of denning locations by red foxes to assess what factors influence den-site selection. Because native and non-native wildlife are often managed differently, results from this project may influence conservation and management decisions for indigenous Rocky Mountain red foxes in Oregon.
This research effort is being led by Greg Green of Owl Ridge Natural Resource Consultants, with project partners including Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and Wildlife Ecology Institute.
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