The Sacramento Valley red fox Vulpes vulpes patwin of California is a newly named subspecies recently found to be distinct both from other native red foxes and nearby introduced populations. The Sacramento Valley red fox experienced a historical demographic bottleneck resulting in a critically small genetic effective population size, causing concern over its current status and management requirements, yet little is known about its contemporary abundance, demographic trajectory, or habitat use. The hot, arid Sacramento Valley contrasts starkly in climate and physiography with the boreal habitats of other indigenous red foxes in western North America, indicating the need to obtain information specifically on the habitat requirements of this subspecies. A 3-y effort to locate reproductive den sites throughout the Sacramento Valley resulted in 42 independent dens, which we used to obtain preliminary information on habitat use and to develop a distribution model for this subspecies, and 28 Sacramento Valley red foxes killed by vehicles, which we used as independent data to test the models. Foxes were present significantly more than expected in grasslands and less than expected in wetlands and flooded agriculture and also tended to occur in proximity to human development, potentially as refuges from coyotes Canis latrans. We used Maxent to build predictive models. The best model, which incorporated vegetation/land-use classes and proximity to human development, identified 24% of the study area as predicted-presence habitat, which contained 76% of the den sites used to construct the model and 89% of independent locations used to test the model. Our model greatly narrowed the area over which foxes are predicted to occur and will facilitate future surveys to assess occupancy and ultimately abundance and population trends.
- Sacramento Valley red fox
- Species distribution model
- Vulpes vulpes patwin
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Nature and Landscape Conservation