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Recovery Strategy for the Swift Fox (Vulpes velox) in Canada (Proposed)

Executive Summary

  • Swift foxes are found predominately in short- and mixed-grass prairie areas of North America.

  • Swift foxes were previously extirpated from Canada. As of the 2006 census a small population of approximately 647 animals (1,162 animals including Montana) has been established in Alberta and Saskatchewan through reintroductions. Animals are successfully breeding in the wild, although the species is potentially at risk from predation and habitat loss.

  • Major threats to swift foxes include: habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation; predation and competitive exclusion by coyotes (Canis latrans) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes); mortality from vehicles; disease; poisoning and trapping. Climate change and associated habitat changes and range shifts also contribute to an uncertain future for swift foxes.

  • The long-term recovery goal. By 2026, restore a self-sustaining swift fox population of 1,000 or more mature, reproducing foxes that does not experience greater than a 30% population reduction in any 10-year period.

  • To assess progress, an additional short-term recovery goal has also been described as follows. Ensure a mature reproducing population of at least 250 foxes by 2011.

  • Eight objectives have been developed to achieve the short-term goal:
    1. Determine the amount and spatial configuration of habitat required to achieve the short- and long-term population goals.
    2. Quantitatively assess the long-term population viability and then re-assess the long-term recovery goal. Determine if additional swift fox reintroductions are necessary to achieve the long-term recovery goal.
    3. Identify and initiate the securement of swift fox habitat necessary to achieve recovery goals.
    4. Develop research or modelling programs to assess the threats of intraguild competition and climate change.
    5. Ensure that accidental poisoning, trapping, and vehicular collisions do not threaten swift fox recovery.
    6. Raise awareness and support from key stakeholders for swift fox conservation and recovery.
    7. Monitor trends in swift fox abundance and spatial distribution, genetic diversity, and prevalence and distribution of high-risk diseases.
    8. Integrate swift fox recovery efforts into larger, unified conservation planning programs for co-existing prairie species.

  • Critical habitat cannot be identified for the swift fox at this time because of uncertainty about the ecological definition and location of suitable habitat required to achieve recovery of the species. While much is already known about swift fox habitat requirements, several knowledge gaps must be filled before critical habitat can be identified. A schedule of studies has been prepared, completion of which should enable the identification of critical habitat in an action plan and posting on the Registry in July 2011.