It is always a delight walking the land and coming across something new along the way, a hitherto undiscovered plant or animal not seen before. Too often, it is an unwelcome visitor such as a noxious weed or perhaps a gopher or as of last year…rabbits.
On the global scale, brand new (never known) fish species are discovered at the rate of 2 per day. It is thought that the jungles of the world contain many more amphibians and reptiles than have yet been named. We are still lucky to find a few new bird species every year, and amazingly new species of mammals are still found. If you want to have the best chance of chancing upon a new insect, amphibian or bird, travel to Borneo, the world’s hotspot of new species.
And what shall we think about the Cascade red fox! A mostly unknown cousin of the introduced (to the Pacific Northwest) feral red fox, the Cascade sub-species or…. new species) resides in the upper echelons of elevation…above 6,000 feet.
The Cascade red fox represents an ecologically and evolutionary distinct lineage, possibly physiologically adapted to the demands of high elevation. With “furry feet,” Cascade red fox have an advantage over coyotes and other competitors and predators, all who are unable to survive higher in the mountains.
To adapt to quite chilling temperatures, the Cascade red fox has developed a thick, insulated fur coast and a faded gray color to better blend in. Cascade red fox have a variety diet. Scat collection revealed that 52% of the carnivore’s diet is mammals, with plants contributing 19%, insects 17%, birds 5%, and carrion 7%. Year round, gophers are the most important part of their diet.
We first knew about the Cascade red fox when they were captured on film in southern Washington (Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams) and in Yosemite, and as of two weeks ago, now in northern Oregon. Is it possible that a new mammal species could exist in the United States?! Through genetic and other research, this question will soon be answered.
Everywhere, every season, even every day, change occurs, sometimes subtly, sometimes quite overtly as we’ve noted this year, the columbine flower is more widespread than ever. As was written in my last blog, keeping track of these findings in a journal such as The Land Book, helps us notice trends how land is responding to weather, climate, perhaps new folks moving into the area or other impacts. Walk your stewardship property today and see what is new to your eye.~