Gretchen Kay Stuart. Whitefoot.

Gretchen Kay Stuart. Whitefoot.

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Whitefoot was the matriarch of a population of endangered Cascade red foxes in the Washington Cascades. First noted by biologists in 2011 and easily identified by her distinct marking of one white foot, she lived to be at least 10 years old—about twice the life expectancy of a wild fox.

Smaller than a lowland red fox, the Cascade red fox (Vulpes vulpes cascadensis) is genetically and morphologically unique. Their ancestors arrived in North America by crossing the Bering Landbridge over 300,000 years ago. As ice sheets receded and millenniums elapsed, the foxes found suitable habitat in the elevations of the Cascade volcano chain. Today, they only persist in small, isolated populations with shrinking numbers due to effects of climate change, over-recreation, and food conditioning. With the WDFW endangered status approved in 2022, efforts are increasing to preserve Cascade red fox habitat and learn how to protect this beautiful, native mountain fox from extinction.

Gretchen Kay Stuart is a Pacific Northwest-based conservation photographer who finds hope and purpose in focusing on wildlife species of greatest need and raising awareness for them with visual storytelling, writing, campaigning, and collaborating with scientists.

Follow Gretchen on Instagram @gretchenkaystuart.

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