Rare Sierra Nevada Red Fox Spotted in Yosemite National Park

This Sierra Nevada red fox was photographed by a motion-sensitive camera in a remote area of Yosemite National Park. National Park Service

Holy fox! A motion-triggered camera snapped this photo of a Sierra Nevada red fox in California's Yosemite National Park on December 13, 2014, and again in early January. It's the first time in nearly 100 years that the creature has been spotted in the park.

Scientists estimate that there 50 or fewer of these animals left. This fox is a subspecies (Vulpes vulpes necator) that once lived throughout much of the Sierra Nevadas and surrounding areas. By the mid-20th century, it was nearly driven to extinction by demand for pelts but in 1974, California made it illegal to hunt the animal. Still, it remains one of North America's rarest mammals.

The nearest recent verified sightings of the animal came from the Sonora Pass area, north of the park, where biologists have been keeping tabs on a small population since 2010, when they were first found there by a camera trap in a remote area.

Compared to other red foxes, which live at lower elevations and are found in North America, Europe and Asia, these animals are slightly smaller and have darker fur.

"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.

No foxes could be reached, but we expected they might say something like this: