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Recovery Strategy for the Swift Fox (Vulpes velox) in Canada (Proposed)
- 2.1 Recovery Feasibility
- 2.2 Recovery Goals and Population Objectives
- 2.3 Recovery Objectives (5-year)
- 2.4 Rationale for Goals and Objectives
- 2.5 Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives
- 2.6 Critical Habitat
- 2.7 Effects On Other Species
- 2.8 Statement on Action Plans
2.1 Recovery Feasibility
Recovery of swift foxes in Canada is determined to be feasible because the species meets all the four necessary conditions (Environment Canada 2005), as described below.
- Are individuals capable of reproduction currently available to improve the population growth rate or population abundance? Yes
Following swift fox extirpation from Canada by 1938 (Pied Piper 1950), the Canadian population of swift foxes was reintroduced in 1983. By 1997, 942 foxes had been released (Carbyn 1998). These releases have established a small swift fox population in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Montana. Results of a survey conducted in 2005-2006 indicated a three-fold increase in replicated areas of the Canadian swift fox population since the 1996-97 survey with 100% of the Canadian/Montana population being born in the wild. In the eight-year period between these two population estimates, the Alberta/Saskatchewan border subpopulation increased from 192 to 513 individuals, the Grasslands National Park region increased from 87 to 134 individuals while the Montana area is thought to support 515 foxes for a total of 1,162 foxes in the Canadian/Montana area (Moehrenschlager and Moehrenschlager 2006). Additionally, in 2004, 15 swift foxes were reintroduced to Blood tribe lands of southwestern Alberta.
- Is sufficient suitable habitat available to support the species or could it be made available through habitat management or restoration? Yes
The observed growth of the reintroduced swift fox population demonstrates that there is currently sufficient habitat to support swift foxes. Further research must be done to determine how much habitat is needed to achieve the recovery goal and efforts must be maintained to protect and restore this habitat. Strategies are being developed to mitigate the threats of habitat loss and fragmentation that include securement, stewardship, and restoration.
- Can significant threats to the species or its habitat be avoided or mitigated through recovery actions? Yes
Significant threats to the species include loss and degradation of habitat, habitat fragmentation, interaction and competitive exclusion with coyotes and red foxes, direct and indirect mortality, and climate change. These threats can be effectively avoided or mitigated through. (1) the use of management and stewardship actions to protect and improve habitat; (2) education, research and monitoring to support conservation and management decisions, (3) policy changes to minimize/eliminate the use of poisons, and (4) habitat and climate modelling to assess swift fox areas that are at the greatest risk from climate change and adaptive and proactive management to predict and respond to those changes.
- Do the necessary recovery techniques exist and are they demonstrated to be effective? Yes
Techniques needed to ensure recovery of the species are available and include, but are not limited to: captive breeding and release techniques, wild translocations, census methodology (eg. live trapping), and telemetry. Development of a non-invasive census technique, using DNA from scats and hair, is currently underway.
2.2 Recovery Goals and Population Objectives
Long-term recovery goal
By 2027, 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.
Short-term recovery goal (5 years)
Ensure a mature reproducing swift fox population size of at least 250 foxes by 2012.
2.3 Recovery Objectives (5-year)
- Determine the amount and spatial configuration of habitat required to achieve the short- and long-term population goals.
- 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.
- Identify and initiate the securement of swift fox habitat necessary to achieve recovery goals.
- Develop research or modelling programs to assess the threats of intraguild competition and potential effects of climate change.
- Ensure that accidental poisoning, trapping, and vehicular collisions do not threaten swift fox recovery.
- Raise awareness of and support from key stakeholders for swift fox conservation and recovery.
- Monitor the following. trends in swift fox abundance and spatial distribution, genetic diversity, and prevalence and distribution of high-risk diseases.
- Integrate swift fox recovery efforts into larger, unified conservation planning programs for co-existing prairie species.
2.4 Rationale for Goals and Objectives
Population viability analysis for swift foxes has not been completed, and therefore the current long-term recovery goal (Section 2.2) is based on the COSEWIC (2004) quantitative status assessment criteria for a designation of Threatened status. Meeting this goal may lead to a downlisting by COSEWIC from Endangered to Threatened, however, future research may lead to a refinement of short- and long-term recovery goals (IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria 2001).
The swift fox population has shown a 3-fold population increase since 1996 and may be on its way to recovery. Therefore, the majority of the objectives focus on research and analyses that are needed to determine what, if anything should be done to ensure this species' recovery in Canada. The research and analyses may reveal that minimal interventions, beyond habitat restoration and securement, are needed. If it is determined that further reintroductions are required to reach recovery goals, then a reintroduction action plan will be developed.
The swift fox Recovery Team recognises and is supportive of First Nation interests such as the Blood Tribe (Kainai), which have valid cultural and spiritual reasons for swift fox (Sinopaa) reintroductions. Timelines for moving ahead with reintroductions will depend on the Blood Tribe planning process. Some of this planning can be initiated though a Blood Tribe swift fox workshop that considers both long-term and short-term goals as well as methodologies. The Recovery Team would be pleased to assist with this workshop.
2.5 Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives
|Priority||Objective #||Performance Measures||Threats addressed||Broad Approach/ Strategy||General Steps|
|Urgent||1. Determine the amount and spatial configuration of habitat required to achieve the short- and long-term population goals.||Habitat loss||Research/|
|Urgent||2. Quantitatively assess the long-term population viability and then re-assess the long-term recovery goal.||Habitat loss||Research/|
GIS and PHVA Modelling
|Urgent||3. Identify and initiate the securement of swift fox habitat necessary to achieve recovery goals.||Recovery and/or survival habitat identified||Habitat loss||Research/|
4. Develop research or modelling programs to assess:
GIS and Habitat Modelling/
|Urgent||5. Ensure that accidental poisoning, trapping, and vehicular collisions do not threaten swift fox recovery.||BMP developed and communicated||Direct mortality||Policy/|
|Necessary||6. Raise awareness and support from key stakeholders for swift fox conservation and recovery.||Success of public outreach, awareness and education programs initiated by the recovery team and/or other agents||All threats||Education and Outreach|
|Necessary||7. Monitor trends in swift fox abundance and spatial distribution, genetic diversity, and prevalence and distribution of high-risk diseases.||Habitat loss, direct and indirect mortality||Monitoring and Research|
|Necessary||8. Integrate swift fox recovery efforts into larger, unified conservation planning programs for co-existing prairie species and broader prairie conservation issues.||all||Planning|
2.6 Critical Habitat
Critical habitat cannot be identified for swift foxes at this time because of uncertainty about the ecological definition and location of suitable habitat required to achieve recovery of the species. Swift foxes have large home ranges and it is likely that large areas will need to be maintained as native prairie in an effort to meet the recovery goal. The size and distribution of large home ranges on native prairie need to be better understood and used to inform the critical habitat identification process. While there is already a lot 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 by July 2011.
2.6.1 Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat
|1. Based on current knowledge, determine the functional attributes of swift fox habitat that need to be maintained as part of a cumulative effects assessment of human disturbance that includes the identification of knowledge gaps and future research and monitoring priorities. This would contribute to the development of best management practices and environmental assessment mitigations.||July 2007|
|2. Model species' habitat to estimate habitat suitability/use based on presence/absence live trapping data.||July 2007|
|3. Model species' demographics to estimate population dynamics and risk of extinction concurrent with recovery goal. Combine population and suitable habitat model results in a spatially explicit PHVA (Population Habitat Viability Analysis) (or other means) to estimate the amount and location of habitat required to achieve short- and long-term recovery goals for existing Canadian populations. This analysis will be used to determine if further reintroductions are necessary.||January 2008|
|4. Synthesize current knowledge into a discussion paper (incorporating 1 through 3 above). Discussion Paper will include a biological description of critical habitat including maps of potential critical habitat and will explain how these maps were developed. The discussion paper will also list activities that constitute destruction of critical habitat, communicate what the Federal Policy is on effective protection, and discuss the options available for securing swift fox critical habitat in the different jurisdictions.||September 2008|
|5. Conduct a workshop series with stakeholder representatives in communities proximal to Canadian swift fox habitat or in regions with large amounts of potential swift fox habitat as part of critical habitat consultations. A primary purpose of the consultation workshops is to communicate/discuss/clarify the Discussion Paper on Critical Habitat for swift foxes. Information on the potential socio-economic impacts of various critical habitat designation options would be gathered and strategies for mitigating the socio-economic impacts developed. Where possible, conduct consultation workshops collaboratively, with the Greater-Sage Grouse recovery team, in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness.||October 2008 – March 2009|
|6. Draft an action plan for swift foxes, including the identification of critical habitat. Begin review/consultation process.||January 2010|
|7. Evaluate the potential ecological, social, and economic impacts of critical habitat identification, protection, and management. Develop collaboratively, with the Greater-Sage Grouse recovery team, where possible, to achieve efficiencies. Begin review/consultation process.||July 2010|
|8. All consultation and approvals completed and action plan posted on registry.||July 2011|
2.7 Effects On Other Species
Please refer to Strategic Environmental Assessment (Forrestall 2006) summary at the beginning of this document.
2.8 Statement on Action Plans
An action plan that includes a delineation of critical habitat will be developed (see Table 3) by July 2011. If it is determined that additional reintroductions are required to reach recovery goals, then a reintroduction action plan will be developed either separately, or, as part of the action plan that delineates critical habitat. The Province of Alberta is also preparing its own swift fox Recovery Action Plan.
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