Subject: [Tweeters] Re: Red Fox
Date: Jul 20 14:21:51 2009
From: Kevin Purcell - kevinpurcell at

On Jul 20, 2009, at 12:05 AM, Kelly McAllister wrote:

> I think it will be pretty hard to find anyone, in an official
> capacity, who will care to receive sightings of Red Fox in
> Washington. Keith Aubry of the U.S. Forest Service is likely one
> exception though.

Keith Aubry wrote a masters thesis at the UW in 1983 on the
distribution of the Red Fox in Washington. And of course his masters
raised some important issues (like no one had really though about the
distribution of "lowland" Red Foxes because they already had multiple
introductions). He later published a paper in Northwest Science that
fortunately has been scanned an put up on the web. It makes for an
interesting read (if for no other reason than using hunting and museum
data to build a picture a historical county range description).

Keith Aubry, "The Recent History and Present Distribution of the Red
Fox in Washington", Northwest Science, vol 58, no. 1, 1984


> Personally, I believe that sightings of animals at mid-elevations of
> the Cascade Mountains (500-2,500 feet) are very important to get on
> the record. The introduced Red Fox seems to be relatively well
> established, near sea level, in western Washington. I've heard of
> many sightings in areas within several miles of marine shorelines.

People might also find this GAP Analysis Predicted Distribution Map
from UW helpful in visualizing where you *might* find Red Foxes.


But note two things:

1. it's a predicted distribution from satellite imaging identifying
particular potentially usable habitats.

2. it's a distribution for the Red Fox ... all of them regardless of

This one also marks up actual records of sightings but makes no
distinction between subspecies/morphs/types in the records.


> Then, there are the apparently native animals of the subalpine
> parkland habitat in the Cascade Mountains. I have seen little or
> nothing to suggest that the introduced foxes range into the occupied
> habitat of the native foxes. I don't think there's much question
> that the animals in the high country of the Cascades are isolated
> from the introduced stock.Certainly, the predominance of the silver
> phase in these animals is consistent with the native condition.
> The paper that Kevin Purcell linked to suggests that red fox are
> incredibly adaptable. If so, it is difficult to explain the apparent
> long-term isolation of these two fox populations despite the many
> decades of opportunity for the introduced fox to spread and come
> into contact with the native form. As far as I can tell, the non-
> native foxes simply haven't shown that much resilience and
> adaptability in Washington. They seem to occupy a fairly specific
> niche.
> Kelly McAllister
> Olympia, Washington

So for those interested in a more detailed look at the "lowland" Red
Fox versus the "mountain" Red Fox the Aubry paper is worth a read.
There have been multiple introductions of Red Fox in WA so non-native
introduction is not just a matter of diffusion of Red Foxes into this
area from the East (through habitat poor for them) but deliberate
introductions starting at the beginning of the 20th century (for
hunting) and there have been escapes of farmed "Silver" and other
color morphs of the Red Fox since then too. All color phases have been
farmed here.

I think there is a worthwhile research project in doing DNA work on
"native" and non-native foxes. Do they intergrade or are they isolated
from the lowland Red Fox? Are they native? How do they compare to
Boreal Red Foxes (can you guarantee those are "native"). If they are
isolated what is their current range? How large is the population? Why
are they isolated from breeding (physical separation of their habitat
or some other preference)?

Or back to Aubry's original question: "what is the range of the
"lowland" Red Fox?"

Of course, if they're the same species they should breed where habitat
overlaps especially in the Northern Cascades where Steven's Pass and
Snoqualmie pass would seem to connect lowland King Co. and highland
areas in Chelan and Kittitas counties together along with habitat
between them. Perhaps even the North Cascades Highway (though there is
a little gaps there). And in the "Southern" Cascades where lowland
foxed in Lewis county could meet with highland foxes in Cowlitz and
Yakima counties. Are there physical barriers that prevent them

There is some interesting work to be done here. :-)
Kevin Purcell
kevinpurcell at