Latin name: Vulpes velox
Swift fox are currently extirpated from the majority of their historic distribution in the Northern Great Plains. We (a diverse group of state agencies, academics, tribes and non-profit organizations) are taking preliminary steps to build a foundation for swift fox restoration in this area. Our final objective is to establish a connected network of swift fox populations which links foxes in northern Montana with those in South Dakota and Wyoming. This involves 1) surveys to determine their current distribution, 2) telemetry studies to understand movement within and between current populations as well as the factors which inhibit this movement, 3) networking with public and private landowners to build community support for the work and, finally, 4) strategic translocation of swift fox to release sites of critical importance in terms of contribution to connectivity and potential for long-term population viability.
The first phase of this work, Operation Fox Finder, has begun. In partnership with a team of state and federal agencies, tribal entities, and NGOs, we completed 573 individual survey locations in Montana and North Dakota in 2015 and 531 survey locations in South Dakota in 2016. Our next step in this process is identifying ways to partner with private landowners, teachers and students to build a team of citizen scientists who are directly involved with conducting swift fox surveys in these three states. We are currently seeking funding and collaborators for this piece of the puzzle - so stay tuned!