What do you think the value of this rare 5 lb, 12" high, legally trapped little creature in Montana is?
FWP had said there was no reported market value for them. But are they on their way to being wiped out again in Montana?
Swift fox are shy, fast, nocturnal, cat sized member of the vixens, i.e. fox family, that live on the grasslands. Scientists refer to them as indicators of healthy prairies. They are half the size of the typically known red fox, their coats are less red and their tail is tipped with black instead of white. They spend most of their time in burrows on the prairie and feed predominantly on prairie dogs. Their major predator are coyotes who are believed to kill them as competitors for food.
Swift fox choose to mate for life and breed Dec-Feb producing litter sizes of 2-6 kits.
Swift fox have been reduced to less than 40% of their historic range across the prairies which ran from central Alberta, Canada, south to central Texas, and from western Iowa to Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Habitat loss, hunting and trapping remain major threats for this species who lives an average of only 3-4 yrs in the wild. According to researchers, swift fox are very curious and easy to trap.
As a result of massive killing campaigns utilizing traps and poisons against wild canines and prairie dogs, and the plowing up of grasslands for agriculture and livestock, the swift fox was finally considered extinct in Montana by 1969. It hadn't been seen in decades.
Approximately 1,000 swift fox were later reintroduced into Montana along the Canadian border between 1983-1997. Another roughly 200 were released on to two Native American Reservations in 1998-2002 and 2006-2010.
In 2010, legalized trapping of swift fox was re-instituted in Montana allowing a quota of 20 to be killed. Three years later, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks increased the quota for the 2013 furbearer season to 30. Customarily, the trapping season in Montana correlates to the pregnancy, birthing and/or period of dependent young. According to USFWS, “swift fox breed in late December to early January, however, in the northern parts of their respective ranges, they may breed as late as early February. Young are typically born in late February to early March after a gestation period of ~50 days.” They disperse to new areas predominantly just before the breeding season. Montana’s trapping season for swift fox, Nov 1- March 1, runs, during the breeding, pregnancy and birthing season. It closes earlier if the killing quota is reached.
For the Montana 2016 trapping proposals swift fox quotas were reduced from 30 to 10 reflecting the average number reported trapped annually. TFMPL asked why even 10 and pushed for 0 but to no avail.
In 2018, it became quietly public that in the last international census, i.e. 2015, swift fox populations plummeted 67% in Montana!
According to the last international census which was done in 2015, an estimated population of only 175 swift fox remain in Montana. What impact does trapping and killing 10 out of 175 have? What was the cost to reintroduce swift fox three times in Montana? What will be the cost now if they don’t recover?
In Alberta and Saskatchewan, where swift fox were also reintroduced, they remain protected. No trapping! In further contrast to Montana, their populations have grown and swift fox recently moved from a listing of endangered status to threatened.
For the 2018/2019 furbearer proposals, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks asks the public to support a swift fox conservation strategy. Listed as primary goals are to monitor swift fox distribution and status, and increase distribution of swift fox into suitable, connected habitats and avoid potential listing under the endangered species act.
Meanwhile, Montana continues to allow the trapping and killing of swift fox and those entrusted to manage and oversee them have been mute about it.
Where's the science?
Current market price for Swift Fox pelts? $7 Cost to reintroduce? Cost to recover the species?