A news site about animals

Rare Fox Sighting in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is excited to report the first confirmed sighting in the park of a rare Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator) in nearly 100 years. Park wildlife biologists had gone on a five-day backcountry trip to the far northern part of the park to check on previously deployed motion-sensitive cameras. They documented a sighting of the fox on two separate instances (December 13, 2014 and January 4, 2015) within the park boundary. The Sierra Nevada red fox of California is one of the rarest mammals in North America, likely consisting of fewer than 50 individuals.

“We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” stated Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”

“Confirmation of the Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park’s vast alpine wilderness provides an opportunity to join research partners in helping to protect this imperiled animal,” stated Sarah Stock, Wildlife Biologist in Yosemite National Park. “We’re excited to work across our boundary to join efforts with other researchers that will ultimately give these foxes the best chances for recovery.”

The nearest verified occurrences of Sierra Nevada red foxes have been in the Sonora Pass area, north of the park, where biologists from U.C. Davis (UCD), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have been monitoring a small Sierra Nevada red fox population, first documented by the USFS in 2010. Prior to 2010, the last verified sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the region was two decades ago.

The Yosemite carnivore crew will continue to survey for Sierra Nevada red fox using remote cameras in hopes of detecting additional individuals. At each camera station, the crew also set up hair snare stations in the hopes of obtaining hair samples for genetic analysis. Through genetic analysis, the park can learn more about the diversity within the population and to confirm whether the fox(es) detected in Yosemite is genetically related to individuals from the Sonora Pass area.

These Sierra Nevada red fox detections are part of a larger study funded by the Yosemite Conservancy to determine occurrence and distribution of rare carnivores in Yosemite National Park. Thank you to all our colleagues who have been helping us with this project in many important ways (UCD, USFS, CDFW, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, Bureau of Land Management, and Yosemite backcountry rangers and volunteers).

New African Mammal Discovered

A new mammal discovered in the remote desert of western Africa resembles a long-nosed mouse in appearance but is more closely related genetically to elephants, this according to a California scientist who helped identify the tiny creature.

“The new species of elephant shrew, given the scientific name Macroscelides micus, inhabits an ancient volcanic formation in Namibia, and sports red fur that helps it blend in with the color of its rocky surroundings,” said John Dumbacher, one of a team of biologists behind the discovery.


Genetic testing of the creature, which weighs up to an ounce and measures 7.5 inches in length- including its tail- revealed its DNA to be more akin to much larger pachyderms.

“It turns out this thing that looks and acts like shrews that evolved in Africa is more closely related to elephants,” said Dumbacher, a curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.


The findings, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, floored scientists, who said the only visible link between an African elephant and the diminutive shrew is its trunk-like nose. An elongated snout is a common feature of various shrew species, many of which look like long-nosed mice externally, though shrews are not classified as rodents.


Dumbacher likened the newly discovered mammal to a small antelope in its physique and sleeping habits and to a scaled-down anteater in hunting techniques and preferred prey. Like an antelope, the creature has long, spindly legs relative to its body size, and hunkers down next to bushes to sleep rather than burrowing. Like an anteater, it uses its extended nose to sweep the ground in search of ants and other insects. The desert-dwelling shrew is prone to giving birth to twins, which hit the ground running like the calves of some types of African antelope.


Biologists plan to return to Africa in the coming months to outfit the new mammals with miniscule radio collars to learn more about their habits, Dumbacher said.


Happy Bun(shrew)day (|^_^|)

Harbor Porpoises Return to San Francisco

After a 65-year absence, harbor porpoises are back in San Francisco Bay, providing scientists a unique view into their lives.

Marine biologists are studying some of San Francisco’s least-known residents from an unlikely laboratory: the Golden Gate Bridge.  Through binoculars, Bill Keener suddenly spots a harbor porpoise, its dark gray dorsal fin appearing briefly before re-submerging. Keener predicts the porpoise’s course and, just as it surfaces again, photographs the animal before it disappears. “Got it,” he declares triumphantly.

This harbor porpoise is one of more than 600 that Keener and the other marine mammal scientists of Golden Gate Cetacean Research have recorded in the San Francisco Bay since 2008, compiling the world’s first photo catalog of wild harbor porpoises.


“What was known about harbor porpoises until now has mainly been from dead, dying or captive animals,” says Keener, “It’s an avocation rather than a vocation,” Szczepaniak says, grinning.

With financial support from the National Wildlife Federation and its donors, the researchers are taking advantage of unique circumstances that are bringing the behavior of these normally elusive animals to light. Because porpoises predictably gather in deep, turbulent waters near the Golden Gate at high tides, presumably following small fish that school there to eat accumulated plankton, the scientists  closely observe and photograph the animals either from the bridge or a nearby shore without changing their behavior. “We are getting this wonderful, natural glimpse into their lives that no one has ever had before,” says Webber.  This is remarkable given that just six years ago no porpoises were found in the bay.


Happy Humpday (^_^)


Sea Otter Sighted in Bay for First Time in a Decade

Several boaters spotted and photographed a sea otter feeding in Tomales Bay, in northern California this week, the first confirmed sighting of a sea otter in the bay since 2005.

Nature photographer Richard Blair took the above photo from the boat.


Tomales Bay is a long narrow inlet of Marin County, in northern California.  It is located approximately 30 miles (48 km) northwest of San Francisco. National Park Service biologist Sarah Allen said the otter was probably a male, and likely stopping by on its way back to the southern sea otters’ “core area.”  Male sea otters disperse around the California coast in the wintertime. To see them actually enter Tomales bay is very rare.









After a slow recovery from near-extinction in the 1930s California sea otters have struggled for the past decade, with the population fluctuating between 2,500-3,000 individuals, according to data from the US Geological Survey. The most recent three-year population average,released by the USGS in November, was 2,882, up from 2,792 in 2012.


Any increase in the sea otter population is one to be celebrated.


Happy Ottersday :#)



Otters Return to San Francisco


New video from Oakland, California shows a river otter in San Francisco Bay. It’s one more sighting of the adored animal that for thirty years been essentially wiped out of the Bay Area ecosystem.  A river otter made another appearance on Monday at the Richmond Marina, showing one more sign of a resurgence of the cute and playful animal.

This is Sutro Sam, San Francisco's first resident river otter in thirty years.


At the Oakland Zoo, the otter sighting was welcome news Tuesday.


“I’ve heard about them in Walnut Creek. They’re coming out everywhere,” said Senior Otter Keeper at the Oakland Zoo, Andrea Dougall, “it’s great news for our environment, for our water, it means fish is returning, the fish is healthy and living longer.  It means the otters are coming around and looking for more. Their numbers are increasing and they’re looking for places to go.”


Dougall, who also works with the River Otter Ecology Project, says that as recently as the nineties, there were no otters in the Bay Area at all because of water pollution and hunting.  Recently, however, they’ve been spotted all over, in places like Lake Temescal and Lake Merritt in Oakland, the Sutro Baths in San Francisco, and in numerous locations in Marin.


“They’re doing better reproducing, you know, the pups are surviving longer, and they’re able to disperse to new areas, looking for new habitats,” said Dougall.

This is also Sutro Sam, named for the Sutro Baths he took up residence in.


















Since they are being seen so often, and because they appear to be so playful, Dougall warns you should not see them as anything but cranky.


“They have very sharp teeth and they actually have the third strongest bite of any North American mammal,” said Dougall. “So, those things combined, not so good for people.”


Rice, who shot the Richmond video, told KTVU he saw the otter in the same spot again on Tuesday.


Happy Ottersday :#)