This juvenile, black Cascade red fox (also called a silver fox) was detected at a camera station in the southern Goat Rocks Wilderness. Our crews have been surveying a large area of the mountains in southern Washington since late June. We began our summer field season with 6 field biologists setting remote cameras and searching trails they were hiking for mountain fox, wolverine, and coyote scats in the Dark Divide Roadless Area, Goat Rocks, and William O Douglas Wilderness. From these locations, we expanded north, adding 4 crew members, to survey the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and then south to the Indian Heaven Wilderness and Mt Adams.
The Cascade red fox, one of the three subspecies of mountain red fox, is much more likely to produce black and cross phase individuals than the more common red phase typically observed in lowlands red foxes. It is unclear why this occurs but some hypotheses include the red coat color being selected for in the lowlands, perhaps for mating reasons, or the genes that code for red coat color hitch hiking with another gene that is beneficial in the lowlands. The assumption here is that in the mountains, this gene is not as important so all the different variants of the genes occur in approximately equal proportions - each more being equally useful (or useless). Very little research has been conducted on the mountain fox. Any investigation of the differences between mountain and lowland red foxes would be quite interesting and useful to improve our understanding of the conservation requirements of these unique mountain creatures.