The Cascade fox, a rare subspecies of vulpes known to live at Mount Rainier National Park, seems to be growing too accustomed to humans for handouts, and a study is under way to determine just how damaging this behavior is to the foxes.
Some of the foxes, which are known to inhabit just one other location, Mount Adams, have been seen "begging" for handouts on the roads in the Paradise area, according to park officials.
The research project just under way will evaluate the ecological impacts on these foxes as a result of human activities, and will enable park managers to better manage visitor use and protect the foxes, park officials said in a release. The study is a cooperative effort between Mount Rainier and the USGS-Forestry and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center.
Visitors may see radio collars on some foxes. These radio collars automatically collect time and location information via GPS receivers, similar to what is used in a car or on the trails. Programmed to record time and location at 3.5 hour intervals, the collars are expected to provide a wealth of information of how visitor use may alter the natural movements and habits of foxes.
Mount Rainier has had a persistent problem with people continually feeding the foxes, and this project is designed to better evaluate the behavioral responses of the foxes to this illegal and damaging practice, the release said. The substantial ongoing efforts to educate the public and enforce no-feeding laws will continue.
Results of this study will lead researchers to better understand human impacts and develop new ways of protecting the foxes and keeping wildlife wild.