SACRAMENTO, Jan. 2 (UPI) — A subspecies of red fox living in California’s Sacramento Valley — long believed to be a non-native pest — is in fact native to the area, scientists say.
For almost 100 years the red foxes were thought to have escaped from fur farms and hunting parties in the 1900s, but they’re actually genetically different than non-native foxes elsewhere in California, The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday.
They are also genetically distinct from gray foxes native across most of California, the newspaper said.
Ben Sacks, a biology professor at the University of California-Davis, says genetic testing shows the subspecies, which he calls the Sacramento Valley red fox, is unique to lowland areas north of the American River and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“We can now say that the foxes of the Sacramento Valley are native to California,” Sacks said.
“The fact that the evidence is pointing toward it as a native species — and a native species that we didn’t know about — is kind of an amazing development,” said Armand Gonzales, a wildlife program manager at the California Department of Fish and Game. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
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