The Tale of the Canadian Swift Fox’s Comeback (That Almost Wasn’t)
This post is courtesy of Teva Harrison, Manager of Supporter Development at The Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Would it surprise you to learn that in the southern band of Canada, where 90 percent of us live, 85 percent of our terrestrial species at risk are struggling to survive? They are trying desperately to coexist with us on dwindling fragments of natural land. In fact, there are more than 600 species at risk in Canada today and that number grows each year.
Among Canada’s at-risk species is a small canine, aptly-named the swift fox. As its name suggests, this fox can reach speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour. Once considered an abundant predator in the prairies, it could be seen chasing rodents, insects and lizards across its grassland habitat. But its numbers were severely depleted by the early 1900s due to human expansion and habitat destruction, along with poison and traps laid out for coyotes, wolves and rodents. By the late 1930s, the swift fox was extirpated (locally extinct) in Canada.
Thankfully, a coalition of conservation groups led by the Cochrane Ecological Institute was formed to give this tiny fox its best shot at returning to its former range on Canada’s prairies. Together, they initiated the swift fox reintroduction program in Canada. Thanks to their efforts, captive-bred swift foxes began to be released in 1983 after approximately 50 years of extirpation.
Don’t let the swift fox and other Canadian species disappear! Take action today.
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-scale approach to 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 NCC’s Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area in Saskatchewan.
The story of the swift fox is one that offers hope for the survival of other species on the brink. Since the 1980s, concerted reintroduction efforts throughout the prairie provinces, coupled with conservation initiatives to protect or restore the last precious islands of habitat, have made the difference for this diminutive species.
Today, the status of the swift fox has been upgraded to endangered in Canada, but the future of this small canine is fragile and still hanging on the brink. Could it go the way of the passenger pigeon or the dodo bird – now merely specimens for our children to visit in museums?
For 50 years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has been working across the country to protect significant, threatened habitat across the country. Working with our donors, partners and Canadians across the country, we’ve helped to conserve more than 2.6 million acres (1 million hectares) so far!
The long-term management of habitat is critical if we’re going to safeguard Canada’s natural spaces. When it comes to protecting wildlife habitat, acquiring land is just the beginning. The return of the swift fox to Old Man on His Back is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when conservation lands are managed well for the benefit of species that depend on them for survival. Working together, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren can also enjoy these places and the species that live in them.
If you believe that protecting habitat for endangered species like the swift fox is important, please pledge to support conservation efforts to save Canada’s at-risk species today.
Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy of Canada