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Swift fox numbers rebounding on Fort Belknap Reservation

Swift fox kits
Roshan Patel
/
Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Two swift foxes in a field

The Fort Belknap Indian Community is celebrating the third year of its swift fox recovery program.

Data so far show the fox population is successfully resettling in the grasslands of north central Montana.

A release of swift foxes on Assinboine and Gros Ventre tribal land this week brings the tally to just over 100 animals, up from the 23 foxes introduced to the area in 2020. The population suffered in the late 19th century because of poisoning intended for wolves and coyotes and a loss of grassland.

Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department Biologist Tim Vosburgh says the reintroduction of foxes fills a gap across the Great Plains.

“If you can have connectivity between the entire population of foxes in Montana and those to the south in Wyoming, then you’re more apt to maintain a viable population of foxes in that area," Vosburgh said.

The five-year recovery program is a collaboration between the Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and partners in multiple other states.

According to the Smithsonian, at least 20 swift foxes have been born in the wild since 2020.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.