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Geneticist Seeks Help to Find Red Foxes

April 24, 2007

Red FoxesHave you seen a red fox, a fox den, or a road kill in the Sacramento Valley? You can help genetics researchers by reporting sightings of red foxes in the Sacramento Valley.

Red foxes living north of the American River and the Delta were once considered an introduced species, but scientists believe that they may be native to the area. They could be closely related to the endangered Sierra Nevada red fox, whose population numbers as low as a dozen individuals. Geneticists will use DNA technology to identify fox samples by species and reported habitat, which will help them estimate the number of foxes in the region, track their locations and better understand how their populations may interact.

You can report sightings, or the locations of dens or road kills.
You can enter your report at This Web site contains photos that will help you identify different types of foxes.

Ben Sacks, PhD, assistant project ecologist of the Canid Diversity and Conservation Project, works at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the School of Veterinary Medicine. He is especially interested in the evolution of foxes, wild dogs, sheep and birds. He tracks the movements of individual animals and applies DNA analysis to determine where and how the members of different populations change in different areas. 

The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the School of Veterinary Medicine, is a pioneer in the development of DNA-based animal parentage verification. In the early 1990s, lab personnel began developing parentage tests using microsatellite DNA markers, also referred to as STRs. VGL was the first animal parentage laboratory to offer DNA testing for the horse, cattle and camelid industries in the mid-1990s. This laboratory introduced DNA based tests for elk, deer, dogs, cats, sheep, goats and primates. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory has generated well over 1.5 million DNA profiles. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory also performs forensic animal DNA analyses to analyze animal evidence that may be associated with crimes.

More information about canid diversity: