SALEM, Ore – Rare footage of Kit Fox pups playing in the Eastern Oregon desert recently was captured on video. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have been studying the foxes since 2012.
Kit Fox are a Strategy Species in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. Strategy Species are those with small or declining populations or that are otherwise at risk and in need of conservation. The Kit Fox has always been rare in Oregon where it reaches its northern limit in the southeastern part of the state.
Assistant District Wildlife Biologist Scott Torland says the animals were last monitored in the 1990s when habitat was secure with little human activity or development. The current research project aims to collect updated information on Kit Fox distribution and habitat use in Southeastern Oregon.
“In recent years, there have been more wind energy and mining proposals. We also have more people using the desert, especially Off-Highway Vehicle riders, and it highlighted the need for more data on Kit Fox,” Torland said.
The project started with camera surveys in southern Malheur County then spread to areas of potential Kit Fox habitat in Harney and Lake Counties. New technology in GPS collars makes them small and light enough for the foxes which weigh just four to six pounds. Game cameras then let biologists do most of the monitoring from the office, which is important in a remote area like Coyote Lake Basin.
Biologists have trapped and GPS-collared eight foxes in the past year. Trapping, collaring, and monitoring Kit Foxes will continue through June 2016.
The pups caught on camera are from one of two active dens with pups that biologists know about this year. The video can be viewed here.
Funding for the Kit Fox monitoring project comes from Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid matched with ODFW license funds, Furbearers Unlimited, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Wildlife Institute, and Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation.