It's been nearly 100 years since a sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox was documented in Yosemite National Park, according to park staff. But a remote motion-sensitive camera recently took photos of one of the rare animals as it padded across the snow.
"The Sierra Nevada red fox of California is one of the rarest mammals in North America," reports Ed Joyce of Capital Public Radio, "likely consisting of fewer than 50 individuals."
Now researchers believe they've seen one of the foxes twice since the start of December.
The photogenic animal was spotted by a camera that's part of Yosemite's effort to learn more about rare carnivores that live in the park. The picture was taken in an area of the backcountry in the park's northern region.
"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," said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park superintendent, in a news release.
The park's statement adds, "The Yosemite carnivore crew will continue to survey for Sierra Nevada red fox using remote cameras in hopes of detecting additional individuals."
In addition, "hair snare stations" will be set up that could give researchers samples to help them determine whether any foxes in the park are closely related to a small population of Sierra Nevada red foxes that have been spotted in the Sonora Pass, outside the park.