Swift Fox Reintroduction

Once common in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the swift fox vanished from the Canadian prairies in the 1930s. Learn more about this species.


Wildlife Preservation Canada’s involvement with the swift fox began in the mid-1990s, when we supported the conservation breeding program at Alberta’s Cochrane Ecological Institute, which was part of a reintroduction program that also translocated wild foxes from sites in the U.S. Since then, we have supported periodic field surveys to determine how the wild population in Canada is faring. The surveys, which included both camera-trap monitoring and live trapping, were conducted over a wide range in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana.

The reintroduction program established a small but apparently self-sustaining population in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. A census in 2000/2001 revealed triple the number of swift foxes than were found four years earlier. A stunning 98.6 per cent of young were wild-born, making this one of the most successful endangered species translocation programs in the world. The 2005/2006 census showed continued increases in population size and distribution. Field surveys in 2014/15 revealed that the foxes have maintained a similar range since the previous census, although they may be occupying fewer areas.
Thanks to the reintroduction initiative, the national conservation status of the species was downlisted from Extirpated to Endangered in 1999 and then to Threatened in 2012. After a 60-year absence, swift foxes are once again at home in the wild in Canada.

Moehrenschlager, A. and C. Moehrenschlager.  2006.  Population census of reintroduced swift foxes (Vulpes velox) in Canada and northern Montana 2005/2006.  Centre for Conservation Research Report No. 1, Calgary Zoo.  Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 32 pp.

Moehrenschlager, A. and C. Moehrenschlager.  2001. Census of Swift Fox (Vulpes velox) in Canada and Northern Montana: 2000-2001. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Fish and Wildlife Division, Alberta Species at Risk Report No. 24. Edmonton, Alberta. 21 pp.

The Cochrane Ecological Institute swift fox conservation breeding program was headed by Clio Smeeton, a founding member of the Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitation Association and former curator of the Children’s Zoo at the Calgary Zoo. Follow-up studies of the long-term survival rates, habitat requirements, numbers and dispersion of the released foxes and their descendants were carried out by Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, now head of the Centre for Conservation and Research at the Calgary Zoo, and Cynthia Moehrenschlager , who has led coordination of recovery efforts since 1995.

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