Success for Montana’s Tiniest Foxes
Monday, September 21, 2015
BROWNING, Mont. – They're cute and they're back in Montana.
The tiny swift fox that weighs in at about 5 pounds appears to be thriving in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation region.
Remote wildlife cameras have captured images of the animal.
The swift fox disappeared from Montana in the 1950s due to a series of events, such as the use of poison baits and trapping, targeting other species.
Steve Forrest is senior Rockies and Plains representative for Defenders of Wildlife, a group that helped reintroduce the species on the reservation 17 years ago. He says the good news is that most of the long-lasting poison baits are now banned.
"So, they were kind of the unintentional victim in this story,” he explains. “Because a lot of those other practices have improved, the situation certainly is a lot better for them now."
The Blackfeet tribe has high regard for the swift fox and as part of the tribe’s culture. Killing the animals had long been prohibited, so the tribe was eager to see them return.
Swift foxes have also been reintroduced in a couple of other areas of the state, including the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Forrest says there's something curious about the foxes. It's taken a long time for them to reestablish after reintroduction, and they don't seem to be spreading out on their own, so they may need a little more help.
"We need to fill a few holes where they once were, and so there's always ongoing discussions about what sites would be good reintroduction sites," he explains.
The swift fox is particular about habitat – preferring large expanses of high-elevation grasslands. They are nocturnal, and eat prairie dogs and other small mammals, along with reptiles, insects and berries.
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