The Calgary Zoo finished the first survey in nine years to assess the status of the swift fox, one of Canada’s threatened species. This marks the fourth population-wide survey since the foxes’ reintroduction in 1983 and the 20th anniversary of the start of the survey process. The current survey comes at a critical point in the recovery efforts for this iconic Canadian species.
“The swift fox remains one of Canada’s most fragile populations despite being one of the most successful reintroductions of a nationally extinct carnivore in the world,” states Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, Director of Conservation and Science at the Calgary Zoo. “The data collected is essential to further assess the demography, genetic viability and habitat needs of the swift fox. The results are now being analyzed and will provide crucial information for researchers, landowners and federal, provincial, or state agencies to aid in the recovery of swift foxes.”
Through the ATB Financial Swift Fox Conservation program and a partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, six North American teams (four Canadian and two American) covered 23,000 square kilometres of prairie, or four times the size of Banff National Park assessing the density and occupancy of swift foxes in the wild. From November 2014 to February 2015, the teams gathered distribution information about the foxes using camera traps and live traps in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, and northern Montana.
“Conserving Alberta’s environment is a focus for us,” says Sandra Huculak, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility & Community Investment at ATB Financial. “The story of the swift fox in our province is an important one, and continuing the work of the Calgary Zoo will make sure this animal can thrive here.”
Since 1991, the Calgary Zoo has worked diligently to help bring back swift foxes as they were extinct in Canada by 1938. Captive-breeding programs and translocations of foxes from the United States, through the partnership of many collaborative agencies, allowed for Canadian swift fox releases from 1983-1997. Continual monitoring by the Calgary Zoo and partners, provided information that led to the down-listing of swift foxes to ‘threatened’ by Canada’s Federal Environment Minister in 2012 from a previous listing of ‘endangered.’
Calgary Zoo swift fox research spanning from 2013-2017 is funded by ATB Financial, illustrating ATB’s tremendous leadership and commitment to wildlife conservation. Contributors of support for the current survey include Alberta Fish & Wildlife and World Wildlife Fund US and Wildlife Preservation Canada.
The swift fox recovery effort is a key component of the Calgary Zoo’s Husky Energy Endangered Species Program which has been the foundation for the zoo’s reintroduction activities since 2003, with the support of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Media Information: Photos and video from the field are available upon request.
Trish Exton-Parder Larissa Mark
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