Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, BC (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, BC (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

Swift fox (Photo by Karol Dabbs)

Swift fox (Photo by Karol Dabbs)

Swift fox

The swift fox gets its name for its speed, travelling through the prairies at up to 60 kilometres an hour.

During the 20th century, the swift fox disappeared entirely from the wild in Canada, mostly due to habitat destruction.

A successful reintroduction

In 1983, the Cochrane Ecological Institute, in partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Service, the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the University of Calgary, the World Wildlife Fund and Agriculture Canada, initiated a larger program to reintroduce the fox to parts of its former range in Canada. Most of the animals introduced came from the wild in the United States or were bred in captivity in Canada by the Institute using stock imported from the U.S.

"The swift fox reintroduction program has been one of the most successful canid reintroductions in the world," says Joel Nicholson, Non-Game biologist with Alberta Fish and Wildlife, one of the participants in the reintroduction program. A 2005-2006 census of swift fox populations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the state of Montana counted 1,162 swift foxes, predominantly born in the wild.

Conservation status

But this is still a very low number and although it is no longer considered extirpated, the swift fox remains an endangered species in Canada.

What is NCC doing to protect this species?

Habitat protection is one of the most important ways to ensure this animal's long-term survival. The Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) landscape-approach conservation in prairie areas such as the Sage Creek Uplands of Alberta and Saskatchewan's Frenchman River is helping with that.

In fact, NCC was recently part of a study with the Calgary Zoo that confirmed the presence of swift foxes on the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area in Saskatchewan.

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