Published: February 2022
Author(s): Jeffrey C. Lewis, Jocelyn R. Akins, and Tara Chestnut
The Cascade red fox (Vulpes vulpes cascadensis) is a subspecies of red fox that historically occurred in subalpine meadow, parkland, upper montane forest, and alpine habitats of the Cascade Range of Washington and southern British Columbia. Lack of detections of Cascade red foxes in British Columbia in recent decades indicate that this species is now restricted to Washington. A southward range contraction appears to have occurred within Washington within recent decades, as the only known population now occurs in the South Cascades (south of the I-90 corridor). It now occurs within ≤ 50% of its historical range in the state.
The Cascade red fox is one of three subspecies of red foxes that occupy montane habitats in western North America. They are a smaller subspecies of red fox that has adapted to occupying cold high elevation environments year-round, where they use subalpine meadow, parkland, upper montane forest, and alpine habitats near the crest of the Cascade Range.
Our knowledge of the biology and ecology of the Cascade red fox is extremely limited. There are no estimates (historical or current) of total population size for the Cascade red fox in Washington. However, in the southern Cascades, a recent estimate indicated an effective population size of 16 foxes (95% CI 13.3- 19.4), where effective population size can be thought of as the number of individuals in the population that produce the next generation. The apparent range contraction of the Cascade red fox over recent decades is likely to coincide with a lowering of overall abundance. Other aspects of the demography of the Cascade red fox (e.g., survival, fecundity, reproduction) are poorly understood.
There are a number of recognized threats that could affect the stability and persistence of the Cascade red fox population. These threats include small population size, limited genetic diversity, potential impacts of climate change (i.e., loss/fragmentation of habitat, increased predation/competition by coyotes as a result of a decreasing snowpack), potential impacts (e.g., competition, hybridization, disease transmission) of an invasion of non-native red foxes into their current range, and feeding of foxes by visitors at Mount Rainier National Park and other public areas.
Because its range appears to have contracted substantially, the Cascade red fox is now a Washington endemic, and is now confronted with a number of significant threats to its long-term viability. We therefore recommend that the Cascade red fox be listed as a Threatened Species in Washington State.
Lewis, J.C., J.R. Akins, and T. Chestnut. 2021. DRAFT Status report for the Cascade Red Fox in Washington. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington. 15+iii pp.