The San Joaquin Kit Fox
The San Joaquin Kit Fox couresty of Dave Collins
A Kit Fox is either of two small pale gray or buff coloured foxes, Vulpes velox macrotis or Vulpes velox velox, found on plains and in open, sandy areas of western North America, commercially valuable for their fur.
In the U.S.A. the San Joaquin Kit Fox species, Vulpes velox macrotis, was federally classified as Endangered in 1967, and as Threatened by the state of California in 1971 (USFWS 1998). It is sometimes referred to as Vulpes macrotis mutica.
The Desert Kit Fox / Northern Kit Fox / Prairie Kit Fox, also popularly known as the Swift Fox, Vulpes velox velox, is native to the Great Plains region of North America. Today the Swift Fox can be found in fragmented, smaller populations in portions of Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.
The Desert Kit Fox or Swift Fox population numbers in the wild are unknown, but they are found in less than 40% of their historic range. Read HERE about what Defenders of Wildlife are doing to help Swift Foxes. In March 2013 the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned California to protect the Desert Kit Fox as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. This Fox is sometimes referred to as Vulpes macrotis arsipus.
The Southern California Kit Fox, a native to southern California, became extinct in 1903.
The San Joaquin Kit Fox, Vulpes velox macrotis, is the smallest member of the canine (dog) family in North America. It is the size of a house cat.
This fox was widely distributed throughout grassland, scrubland, and wetland communities in the San Joaquin Valley and adjacent low foothills, but agricultural, urban, and industrial development in the Valley has led to extensive and continuing loss of native habitat, the primary threat to these foxes.
These Foxes have big, conspicuous ears and relatively long legs and a slender build. Their principal foods are black-tailed jackrabbits, desert cottontails, rodents, insects, reptiles, and some birds, bird eggs, and vegetation (according to Egoscue 1962, Laughrin 1970, Morrell 1971, 1972, Orloff et al. 1986).
The San Joachin Kit Fox’s natural predators are coyotes and red foxes. Man has reduced the population of these pretty little foxes through poisoning rodents, which has poisoned wildlife sharing the same range as rodent pests – in the name of “collateral damage” according to agriculturalists. Changes in climate, with increased drought, have also affected these foxes.
The San Joaquin Kit Fox is able to adapt to hot temperatures of the chaparral summers and cold temperatures of the winter nights. They are nocturnal and so are active during the cooler time of night.
Another adaptation for the heat of the desert is the size of their ears. The ears of the Kit Fox are big and act like radiators, cooling the fox. Digging dens is another way they adapt to coping with the heat of the desert. The den is cool under the tree roots and out of the heat.
The Kit Fox’s fur also changes color from grey in the winter to tan in the summer to camouflage it. Another adaptation is the fur/hair on the pads of their paws, which gives them better traction and protects the paws from the heat of the chaparral sand.
Today, much of the San Joaquin Kit Fox’s remaining habitat is extremely fragmented, movement corridors are degraded or blocked, and only a few large areas of native grasslands remain on the San Joaquin Valley’s perimeter.
The USFWS East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan, available at this page HERE goes some way to protect San Joaquin Kit Foxes living in that County. The largest extant (living) populations of the San Joaquin Kit Fox are in western Kern County on and around the Elk Hills and Buena Vista Valley and in the Carrizo Plain, which are included under a USFWS Recovery Plan.
The 2010 Review Report (available from the web page above) about the San Joaquin Kit Fox states that between 1987 and 2007, approximately 152,809 acres of kit fox habitat have been identified for protection as compensation for project activities under section 7 consultations (Service unpublished data), or under Habitat Conservation Plans, although the actual acreage under protection to date has not been determined. Page 41 discusses the Habitat Conservation Plans impacting upon this Fox.The Report concluded that at the time of the Review, the San Joaquin Kit Fox’s status remained as Endangered, and more work needs to be done to preserve this Fox.
In 2010 the Centre for Biological Diversity and Los Padres Forest Watch petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox.
Click on the link below to download the Petition in PDF format and share with your friends and family.
The Centre for Biological Diversity and Los Padres Forest Watch states in its Petition –
Critical habitat for the kit fox includes remaining saltbush scrub, alkali sink scrub, or red brome-dominated grassland with an average slope of less than 10%, located in the San Joaquin Valley, Cuyama Valley, Carrizo Plain, and Panoche Valley. Several regions with these characteristics are of particular importance to the continued viability of the kit fox, including portions of Kern, Fresno, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Kings, and Merced Counties (B. Cypher, personal communication, July 27, 2009).
The areas recommended for critical habitat designation include the few best remaining habitat areas, habitat in core recovery areas identified in the recovery plan, areas where habitat restoration can provide conditions suitable to sustain significant kit fox populations, and essential movement corridors between core populations and other known populations distributed throughout the historic range (e.g. Monterey area, Alameda, Tejon, Windwolves).
It is important that critical habitat be declared, to prevent industrial development and building on areas critical for the survival of this Fox.
Click HERE to see what Defenders of Wildlife are doing to help protect these little Foxes. Thank you for helping the San Joaquin Kit Fox.