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Status of the swift fox population in Canada

Petition: No. 157A

Issue(s): Biological diversity

Petitioner(s): G. Gabriella Carrelli

Date Received: 6 September 2005

Status: Completed

Summary: The petitioner questions the government’s methodology for its survey on the live trapping of the swift fox population, alleging that the survey is costly and detrimental to species recovery. The petitioner suggests the government fund a private captive breeding program.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency

Petition

1420 10th Avenue S.E.
Calgary, Alberta
T2G 0X2

22 August 2005

Office of the Auditor General of Canada
and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Attention: Petitions
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

Dear Commissioner Johanne Gelinas:

My name is Gabriella Carrelli, born and raised in Canada, currently living in Alberta. I am writing a petition requesting clarification of government spending and methodolgy with respect to the endangered Swift Fox survey to be performed in the winter of 2005 – 2006 by Environment Canada.

I am submitting a petition under the Auditor General Act, which is enclosed as an attachment.

[Original signed by G. Gabriella Carrelli]

Sincerely yours,

G. Gabriella Carrelli
1420 10th Avenue S.E.
Calgary, Alberta
T2G 0X2


BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI), home to Canada's only Swift Fox captive colony used in reintroductions, has pioneered non-invasive tools to study Swift Foxes in the wild. These methods have been ignored by various agencies within the federal government. Instead invasive and detrimental live trapping surveys are still used at ludicrous costs as a means of studying such a fragile, endangered species as the Swift Fox. The following points are listed in chronological order and provide background information for my petition. Please consider these facts and circumstances with careful regard.

Facts and Circumstances:

  1. The federal government declared the Swift Fox extinct in 1978.
  2. The federal government joins the Swift Fox Reintroduction Programme (1978) and provides $9,000 per annum towards a captive colony while the rest is raised through donations from Canadian and international charities.
  3. The first official reintroduction of the Swift Fox takes place in Alberta in 1983.
  4. This is followed by reintroduction in Saskatchewan in 1985.
  5. Between 1981 and 1996, the federal government obtains more Swift Foxes from the US and keeps them at the Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI).
  6. The Swift Foxes are provided annually by CEI to the Canadian Swift Fox Programme.
  7. In 1986, the Foundation of the Swift Fox Recovery Team (SFRT) was created. It was composed of the federal and provincial governments, and the University of Calgary. CEI was not invited to become members. The federal government tells Miles Smeeton that he has to transfer ownership of the Swift Fox colony to them for legislative reasons. They also say they will pay for the upkeep of the colony. They do so for one year, 1987-1988. Miles Smeeton pays for Swift Fox colony out of his pension.
  8. Miles and Beryl Smeeton both died by 1988 whereby Clio Smeeton takes over responsibility for CEI.
  9. In 1993, the SFRT's recovery plan involving the live trapping of Swift Foxes was rejected by the advisory committee for the Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife (RENEW).
  10. In 1993, the federal government designs an "exit strategy for swift fox" to auction the colony off at an auctioneers (International Wildlife Exchange) in Montreal.
  11. In 1994, the SFRT's recovery plan involving the live trapping of Swift Foxes was rejected once more, by RENEW. Recommendations included not to allow a live trapping program due to animal welfare reasons.
  12. In 1994, Clio Smeeton suggests that federal and provincial governments provide $20,000 each towards the cost of maintaining the captive colony (costs, at that time, were $69,000 per annum). They agreed to pay $10,000 each until 1997. The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) returned the ownership of the swift foxes back to the CEI. This "exit strategy" replaces the previously formulated "exit strategy" (see 10).
  13. In 1994, CEI joined the International Organization of Biological Research Stations, resulting in an increased number of undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate students coming to the CEI.
  14. In 1995, the SFRT's recovery plan involving the live trapping of Swift Foxes is approved by RENEW (a federal body) because of its lack of jurisdiction on provincial issues such as the Swift Fox.
  15. The SFRT did not make the recommended changes from 1994, thus the federal government could not enforce that previous recommendation.
  16. In 1989 to 1996, the CWS live traps wild Swift Foxes in the USA, quarantines the animals at CEI and releases them in Canada. The total number of translocated animals released are 91.
  17. In 1997, Swift Fox reintroduction ceases in Canada. The total number of captive-bred Swift Foxes provided by the CEI to the Canadian reintroduction programme is 841.
  18. In 1998, CEI was approached by the Blackfeet Tribe to undertake a Swift Fox reintroduction on their tribal lands in Montana, USA. This was the FIRST Swift Fox reintroduction in the USA. It was a five year programme (1998 - 2002) and very successful with 75 percent survival over a four year period for radio collared reintroduced animals. The Swift Foxes bred and successfully raised their young in the wild. The total number of Swift Foxes reintroduced in Montana equals 123 (all Canadian animals from CEI).
  19. In 1996 to 2000, CEI initiated a study on Swift Fox vocalisations designed to distinguish between male and female individuals, as a non-intrusive survey tool.
  20. In 2000, CEI developed the FIRST non-intrusive hair collector for Swift Foxes in the wild and set up a partnership with the Natural Resources DNA and Forensic Profiling Centre in Ontario (University of Trent).
  21. In 2001, CEI was approached by the Blood Tribe of Alberta to partner them in a Swift Fox reintroduction programme on the 550 sq. miles of their land. This is an Elder-directed initiative and the first instance in Canada of aboriginal peoples wishing to return an extirpated indigenous species to aboriginal land.
  22. Programme was supported by the Blood Tribe Administration through a Band Council Resolution, letters of support for the programme from Province of Alberta ([name withheld]), Waterton National Park, Red Crow Community College, Alberta Wilderness Association, Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition, Swift Fox Recovery Team, Grasslands Naturalists, Federation of Alberta Naturalists, Nature Conservancy of Canada, and local ranchers.
  23. In 2002, funding applied for (one year for a pre-release survey of the native prairie on Blood land) to Environment Canada was awarded to CEI in April 2003.
  24. In 2003, said programme (and therefore funding) prevented by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) due to an incorrect interpretation of the purpose of section 28/2 of the Indian Act.
  25. In June 2003, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed as a means to protect wildlife at risk by providing legal protection of wildlife and conservation of biological diversity.
  26. In 2003, CEI invited to Russia to discuss habitat restoration techniques (paid for by the Russians, CEI the only Canadian representative).
  27. CEI sets up a partnership with the American Association of Zoos and Aquaria, AAZA, to provide "founder" foxes for the CEI programme as a part of their conservation efforts.
  28. In 2005, the SFRT has authorized a live trapping programme over the winter of 2005 - 2006, to live-trap Swift Foxes to estimate their population in the wild. This programme will cost the various government agencies involved $440,000. It will trap dispersing individual Swift Foxes between October and January.
  29. Dr. Lu Carbyn, original Chair of the SFRT, said (14/04/2005), "It is my guess that the surveys will show that numbers of Swift Foxes are much lower then when we last studied them."

ARTICULATE PETITION REQUEST

I accept that a survey of the fragile, reintroduced Swift Fox population in Canada and the northern US, is a useful tool but I question the methodology used in firstly, live-trapping dispersing individuals in the winter and secondly, the population estimate formula employed. In the report by Bretchel et al. (1996), section A.5 (A.5.3) states, "evaluate new release methods and incorporate improvements." In this same report, section D.1 (D.1.1.1) says, "refine live-traps and trapping protocols to ensure the safe and humane treatment of foxes." I am not convinced this has been done. I also question the anticipated cost of the 2005-2006 winter live-trapping survey. I would like Environment Canada to justify their live trapping method. More specifically: (1) prove to me, CEI, and experts in Swift Fox reintroduction/recovery, that this trapping method will not adversely affect the breeding process of Swift Foxes, (2) that the information gathered will indeed indicate the number of productive, reproducing pairs and NOT dispersed individuals, and (3) that live-trapping a small (estimated 600 individuals), fragile, reintroduced population of an endangered species would NOT have animal welfare issues. [NOTE: there exists a letter (04/05/1994) from the Chairman of the RENEW Subcommittee to the Chair of the SFRT rejecting the national Recovery Plan for the Swift Fox in Canada for 8 different reasons, one of which was (5) " Some Subcommittee members are still concerned about the intrusiveness of the proposed live-trapping and tattooing methods to determine population estimates." Please note, in 2000, the CEI in partnership with the Natural Resources DNA& Forensic Profiling Centre, Trent, Ontario, has developed and proven, a non-intrusive hair collection method for determining individuality and parentage of Swift Fox populations in the wild.] I would like to know how this live-trapping method will contribute to the recovery of the Swift Fox.

I would also appreciate an explanation as to why the proposed cost of this 2005-2006 survey, according to the funding application, is $501,259 for five months of a winter live-trapping survey followed by a five month write-up. The previous survey in 2000-2001 in the same area, looking for the same information, cost the taxpayer $140,000. What will the 2010 Swift Fox survey cost the taxpayer?

The CEI has developed, proven, and successfully applied a method of painlessly collecting hair from Swift Foxes in the wild without handling them (paper, in press). DNA analysis of the hair collected provides information on the individual and its parentage, which is more information collected than from a live-trapped Swift Fox. The development of this hair collection methodology was supported by Environment Canada, the Endangered Species Recovery Fund, Parks Canada, and Trent University. It is cheap, non-intrusive, can be used in all weather, and provides the necessary information required to decide the status of the endangered Swift Fox. The recovery team however, prefers to use live-trapping, which can be detrimental and not nearly as informative as the non-invasive methods. Therefore, I would like the federal departments responsible in this matter to consult with CEI, a leader in Swift Fox reintroduction and recovery, and seriously consider and hopefully implement their proven non-invasive methods. Failing this, the raw data and analyses should be open for public review before any decisions are made on the status of the Swift Fox in the Prairies.

I would like to remind the federal departments of their commitment to the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity (Species at Risk Act,
Bill C-5, from the preamble) whereby,

    the Government of Canada is committed to conserving biological diversity and to the principle that, if there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to a wildlife species, cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for a lack of full scientific certainty.

I suggest that the government reconsider the live-trapping method as detrimental to the recovery of the endangered Swift Fox and abolish its further use and thus funding. I would like the government of Canada to fund the captive breeding program run by the CEI for the next 5 years at a lower cost (i.e. approximately $375,000 for 5 years) than one 5 month live-trapping program.

NAMING FED DEPARTMENTS/AGENCIES

Please submit this petition to: The Honourable Stephane Dion of Environment Canada, and Alan Latourelle CEO of Parks Canada.

SUPPORTING INFORMATION

Brechtel, S., L. Carbyn, G.Erickson, D. Hjertaas, C. Mamo, and P. McDougall. 1996. National Recovery Plan for the Swift Fox. Report No. 15. Ottawa: Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife Committee. 29pp. (please refer to provided website) http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/publications/plans/Swift_Fox_e.cfm#Section%20II:%20Recovery

Consent* from Blood Tribe to reintroduce Swift Foxes onto their land and permit application information (provided).

Email message* from which Lu Carbyn quote was obtained (provided).

Funding application form* from the Swift Fox Recovery Team for the live-trapping of Swift Foxes (provided).

International Wildlife Exchange proof of existence* (provided).

Letters of rejection from RENEW can be provided upon request.

Letter* from [name withheld] on the misinterpretation of the Indian Act by [name withheld] (provided).

Letter* from the Blackfoot Nation supporting Swift Fox reintroduction on Blood Tribe Land (provided).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,

[Original signed by G. Gabriella Carrelli]

G. Gabriella Carrelli
1420 10th Avenue S.E.
Calgary, Alberta
T2G 0X2

tel. 403.270.3169
email: ggcgs@telus.net

*[attachments not posted]

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Joint Response: Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency

3 March 2006

Ms. G. Gabriella Carrelli
1420 10th Avenue South East
Calgary, Alberta
T2G OX2

Dear Ms. Carrelli:

I am writing to provide Environment Canada's and Parks Canada Agency's response to your Environmental Petitions No. 157A and 157B, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, concerning the swift fox recovery program.

Please find the response enclosed. It addresses the issues that fall within Environment Canada's and Parks Canada Agency's responsibilities under the Department of the Environment Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Canada Wildlife Act, and the Parks Canada Agency Act.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment and Parks Canada]

Rona Ambrose


ENVIRONMENT CANADA
RESPONSE TO ENVIRONMENTAL
PETITIONS No. 157A and 157B
UNDER SECTION 22 OF THE
AUDITOR GENERAL ACT
PETITIONER: Ms. Gabriella Carrelli

ENVIRONMENTAL PETITIONS NO. 157A/157B

Petition No. 157A

This petition:

  • Questions the methodology used in the Swift Fox Recovery Team (SFRT) survey program to be carried out in the winter of 2005-2006.
  • Questions the anticipated costs of the 2005-2006 winter live-trapping and the appropriateness of use of live-trapping method.

The following response represents current knowledge as obtained and tested through the scientific method involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

The petition asks responsible federal departments to:

Prove that the proposed method will not adversely affect the breeding process of Swift Foxes.

  • Live trapping is a common technique used in radio-telemetry studies. In a swift fox study in SE Alberta and SW Saskatchewan, live-trapped animals that had telemetry collars successfully found mates and reproduced (Moehrenschlager 2000). In the wild, similar litter sizes were found between litters with two collared parents, one collared parent and parents without collars. Collared foxes have been live-trapped and carry the weight of a radio-collar, but there is no evidence that it affected their ability to reproduce.
  • From 1995-1998, in a population study in SE Alberta and SW Saskatchewan, 125 foxes were trapped for a total of 273 captures.
    No mortalities or major injuries resulted, 8.3 percent of foxes had minor injuries in the form of chipped canines or foot abrasions during initial captures, and 1.1 percent of recaptures had minor injuries. Minor injuries did not affect the likelihood of recapture, the number of recaptures, survival or cause of death. Injury rates decreased over time, through the lining of box traps with wood and a high frequency of trap checks (Moehrenschlager et al. 2003). During the 2000/2001 Swift Fox Census, 5.4 percent of 149 trapped foxes had minor injuries (7 cases of one chipped canine or one chipped premolar, 1 case of a small cut on one paw). However, 2 foxes had major injuries in the form of jaw breaks.
    Of these, one was released following surgery and the second needed to be euthanized. Injury rates in these Canadian studies have generally been lower than published rates from the United States (Moehrenschlager et al. 2003). Individuals that had rare major injuries would have had their ability to breed affected, but the rate was so low that it did not threaten the recovery of the species.
  • The timing of the 2005-2006 survey was designed to minimize interference with the reproduction of swift fox. Whelping and pup rearing occurs from mid-April to mid-August. Conception occurs in mid-February. The survey begins in October and ends by February 15 to ensure that the effect on mating and pup rearing is minimized. It is probable that the end of the census period will overlap with courtship behavior, but it should not overlap with gestation.

Prove that information gathered will indicate the number of productive, reproducing pairs and not dispersed animals

The objectives of the 2000-01 census (using the same methodology as the 2005-2006 survey) were (Moehrenschlager and Moehrenschlager 2001):

  • To estimate changes in the distribution and abundance of swift foxes within the Canadian area surveyed during the 1996-1997 census.
  • To estimate the distribution and abundance of swift foxes in Montana, south of the Canadian Grasslands National Park and Alberta/Saskatchewan subpopulations.

The population monitoring objectives for the 2005-2006 survey are similar:

  • To determine changes in the distribution and abundance of swift foxes in Canada and Montana, relative to 1996/1997 and 2000/2001 censuses.
  • To determine swift fox habitat selection relative to the 1996/1997 and 2000/2001 censuses and relative to fox density.
  • To determine the effect of fox density on age-specific sex ratios and body condition relative to previous censuses.
  • To compare swift fox disease exposure relative to the 2000/2001 census and relative to fox density.

Although it was not one of the immediate objectives to determine the number of productive reproducing pairs, this could be estimated using expected survival rates and probabilities of breeding that have been determined by other studies.

"…that live-trapping a small (estimated 600 individuals), fragile, reintroduced population of an endangered species would NOT have animal welfare issues."

    Animal welfare is a concern whenever an animal is captured or handled.
    The protocol for the 2005-2006 Swift Fox Census was reviewed and approved by the Biological Research Review Committee of the Calgary Zoo (Protocol No. 2005-12). This Biological Research Committee reviews projects for animal care concerns, and is compliant in process and composition with the Canadian Council on Animal Care's guidelines.
    The 2005-2006 Swift Fox Census was also subject to numerous other reviews by a variety of agencies as part of the required permitting processes; permits obtained for the census include: an Alberta Sustainable Resource Development wildlife research permit; a Parks Canada research permit; an Environment Canada Species at Risk Act permit, and a Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration right of access permit. Animal care issues for live-trapping of animals are addressed by the Live Capture Guideline 15 of the Canadian Council of Animal Care Guidelines on the care and use of wildlife. The Guidelines state: "Before initiating field projects involving capture, investigators must be familiar with the study species and its response to disturbance, as well as its sensitivity to capture and restraint. In addition, investigators should be familiar with the advantages and drawbacks of available methods of live capture, particularly those that have been used with the study species."

To address this guideline, the Swift Fox Census:

  • Is coordinated by Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager of the Calgary Zoo, co-chair of the national Swift Fox Recovery Team. Dr. Moehrenschlager completed his Ph.D. on Swift foxes and coordinated the 2000-2001 Swift Fox Census and is very familiar with swift foxes.
  • Convened a meeting of all the swift fox census teams in Calgary during the week of October 11, 2005, at which time each team member handled each of the Calgary Zoo's two swift foxes on two separate occasions.
  • Provided team members with guidance and advice on the field treatment of any minor cuts or abrasions that captured foxes might incur by two veterinarians (Drs. Black and Whiteside).
  • Provided team members with field training in Saskatchewan from October 16 to 21; training was conducted by personnel experienced in handling swift foxes, and all teams traveled together until the trainers and team members were competent and capable of trapping in independent teams of two.
  • Made additional modifications to the trap design from that used in 2000-2001 to further reduce the probability of injury to the foxes; specifically, all live-traps now have their entire interior lined with wood in order to further reduce the incidence of injury to foxes.
  • Contacted regional veterinarians within the study area prior to the census and provided each team with 24-hour contact numbers for these veterinarians in the event of any fox health issue.
  • Provided all teams with kennels in which to transport any foxes which might incur injuries to veterinarians.
  • Provided instruction to team members that, in the event of any major injury to a fox, the fox will be transported to the Calgary Zoo for potential treatment or surgery.
  • Established a trapping protocol that dictates that each trap will be checked at least every 6 hours in order to reduce fox stress from being held in captivity.
  • Established a trapping protocol that traps will not be operated if the temperature is above 25oC or below -20oC, or if weather conditions are such that they might impair the health of captured foxes.

"NOTE: there exists a letter (04/05/1994) from the chairman of the RENEW Subcommittee to the Chair of the SFRT rejecting the national Recovery Plan for the Swift Fox in Canada for 8 different reasons, one of which was (5) `Some Subcommittee members are still concerned about the intrusiveness of the proposed live-trapping and tattooing methods to determine population estimates.' "

    Subsequent to the letter referred to above, the 1996 national recovery plan for the swift fox was approved and published under the auspices of RENEW (RENEW Report No. 15), including reference to both live-trapping and ear-tattooing. The plan recognizes that live-trapping and ear-tattooing are two valid techniques for estimating population size, trend and structure. Subsequent to publication of the 1996 RENEW Plan, the 2000-01 Swift Fox Census was conducted using live-trapping and ear-tattooing. Similarly, the 2005-2006 Swift Fox Census is now being implemented under the guidance of the national Swift Fox Recovery Team using both live-trapping and ear-tattooing. As noted above, the current census methodology and protocol have been reviewed by a number of agencies who have issued the required approvals and permits to authorize this census to occur, including the Calgary Zoo, Biological Research Review Committee (Protocol Number 2005-12).

  • Any time an animal is handled, animal welfare concerns need to be carefully considered and mitigated. The steps taken for the 2005-2006 survey are explained above.

Explain how live-trapping method will contribute to the recovery of the swift fox.

    Population monitoring is a fundamental recovery activity that is identified in both the 1996 Swift Fox Recovery Strategy (Bretchel et al., 1996) and the draft SARA compliant recovery strategy (Pruss et al., in preparation). The live trapping survey has been the primary tool to assess the status of swift fox in the release area.

    The live-trapping technique has a number of strengths: a swift fox occurrence is unequivocal since it is determined by a swift fox in hand; changes in the spatial extent of the population can be confidently determined; it is a very conservative estimate of spatial extent; it provides an estimate of absolute abundance.

    As the methodology has been very carefully standardized and year-to-year differences in trappibility can be estimated, it has provided an estimate of population trend that was better than any other techniques available in 1996. The decision to repeat the live-trapping survey for 2005-2006 means that we can get another snapshot of population trend that will assist the team in evaluating recovery progress.

    Live-trapping also provides an opportunity to collect other information on the swift foxes such as age class, assess body condition, and collect a blood sample to assess disease exposure. Canid disease is an important threat to the recovery of the swift fox. Capturing and handling the animal is the only way that this type of information can be gathered. The live-trapping from the 2005/06 census will allow for the collection of data critical for the development/validation of a less-invasive DNA in scat population monitoring technique, as the DNA in the scat from live-trapped foxes can be compared with blood samples drawn from the same fox.

Explain costs for the proposed survey.

    The proposal being referred to outlined the costs for a an expanded survey in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Northern Montana as well as fully costed out accessory activities such as development of a non-invasive scat DNA research project, blood disease testing, and research on the genetic status of the population. Aspects of the proposal, such as research into the genetic status of the reintroduced population, will be contingent on future funding, although archived hair samples will be available.

    The 2005-2006 census area will cost an estimated $210,000 for 4 trap teams and a coordinator. Funding has been provided by Parks Canada, Alberta Fish & Wildlife, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Montana State Fish and Wildlife, with funding assistance from the Bureau of Land Management, is providing funding for 2 trap teams and a supervisor on the Montana survey area. If the Canadian teams complete their survey area before February 15, the option of their assisting the US teams will be explored. The target Canadian-US survey area is approximately 228 townships (21,012 km2).

Consult with CEI and consider implementing a non-invasive survey method.

    A less invasive technique to complement the live-trapping protocol has been discussed by the Recovery Team for some time. The Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI) did demonstrate that swift fox can be baited and a hair sample collected. However, since the device proposed by the CEI remains open, the potential of more then one swift fox entering the device and contaminating the sample is high. Single entry devices are under development by staff at the Endangered Species Recovery Program, California State University, but the methodology is just being published and the design specifications were not available in time to be incorporated into the 2005-2006 survey. Moreover, a hair trap still involves baiting the animal into a device that removes hair.
    An even less invasive technique would be the identification of individual foxes from DNA in scat. Parks Canada is supporting a graduate student at the University of Manitoba in assessing the use of scat DNA as a swift fox population censuring technique. This study will be coordinated with the 2005-2006 census. Final results should be available in 2006.

"Failing this, the raw data and analyses should be open for public review before any decisions are made on the status of Swift Fox in the Prairies."

    Under the Species at Risk Act, the status of wildlife in Canada is decided by the Government of Canada based on the recommendation of the federal Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment receives recommendations on the status of species at risk in Canada from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

    The Species at Risk Act establishes COSEWIC as an independent body and gives it the functions of identifying and assessing the status of wildlife at risk in Canada. COSEWIC is composed of a variety of government and non-government biologists who are to exercise their discretion in an independent fashion. COSEWIC makes recommendations based on the best available information. COSEWIC will use all the best available information, including the results of the 2005-2006 survey as it sees fit, to review the status of the swift fox in Canada and make a recommendation on its status to the Minister of the Environment. This recommendation will be independent of the national Swift Fox Recovery Team.

    The results of the 1996-97 and 2000-01 census are available to the public. The reference for each of those follow:

  • Cotterill, S.E. 1997. Population Census of Swift Fox (Vulpes velox) in Canada: Winter 1996-97. Prepared for the Swift Fox National Recovery Team. Alberta Environmental; Protection, Natural resources Division, Wildlife Management Division. 50 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, Species at Risk Report, No. 24. Edmonton, AB. 21 pp.

    Similarly, the results of the 2005-2006 Swift Fox Census will be published in a report available to the public; publication of the census results is expected to occur around July 2006. The methodology, analysis and results of the Census will be fully disclosed within the report and will be available for public review. Although the report will contain information on trap location and fox captures, it will not contain precise data for the trap site locations and fox capture sites. Such data is given limited distribution to respect the privacy of landowners who grant access to their lands for the purpose of the survey, to protect the species from potential illegal activities and disturbance, and to prevent misuse of data. The Government of Canada is not the sole source of funding for the 2005-2006 Census or the Census Coordinator. Requests for data with more precise detail on trapping locations will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

"…the Government of Canada to fund the captive breeding program run by the CEI for the next five years…."

    Environment Canada cannot commit funding to the captive breeding program run by the Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI). This was conveyed in a letter from the Minister of the Environment to CEI on September 15, 2005, in response to a request for financial assistance from Ms. Clio Smeeton.
    The decision not to commit funding was based on the uncertainty associated with the need for any further reintroductions. The 2005-2006 swift fox survey will provide important information required to assess whether any further reintroductions are required. There are additional questions around what might be the best areas to release foxes if any reintroductions were deemed necessary. If further reintroductions are determined to be required to secure the recovery of swift fox in Canada, then reintroductions using captive reared swift foxes are just one of the options available. For example, wild translocated foxes were part of the original 1983-1997 reintroductions and it still remains a viable option.

    The national Swift Fox Recovery Team, of which Ms. Clio Smeeton (CEI) is a member, will consider the results of the 2005-2006 survey along with information on habitat use and securement, population trends, population viability and fox mortality, to assess whether any future reintroductions are warranted. This considered scientific approach is supported by Environment Canada.

Petition No. 157B:

This petition asks:

"…what vision the federal government has for the future of the Swift Fox in Canada based on the facts presented and the current situation and status of this endangered species and the captive colony at CEI."

    The status of the swift fox as determined by COSEWIC and listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act is endangered. The 2005-2006 Swift Fox Census will provide valuable new information to enable COSEWIC, and ultimately the Government of Canada, to reassess the status of the swift fox in the future. The vision of the federal government for swift foxes is best expressed through the goals outlined in a national recovery plan or recovery strategy. The 1996 National Recovery Plan for the Swift Fox, prepared under RENEW, has a stated overall goal "…to achieve a viable, self-sustaining population of swift foxes, well distributed across suitable habitats on the Canadian prairies, which would result in the removal of the species from the endangered category by the year 2000." To meet the requirements of the new Species at Risk Act, the national Swift Fox Recovery Team is working on a revised recovery strategy to aid in facilitating this overall goal. At this time, the new draft strategy has the primary goal of: "…within the next 15 to 20 years, restore a viable self-sustaining swift fox population of 1000 or more mature, reproducing foxes which would justify consideration for delisting…" It is Parks Canada's intention to forward the proposed recovery strategy for ministerial approval by June 2006.

"…that responsible departments provide the necessary funding to maintain the CEI captive Swift Fox colony at $75,000.00 per year until the results of the 2005-2006 survey have been completed and written up, and a decision has been made as to whether the Swift Fox be listed as an endangered species or not. …."

    Please refer to the answer provided on page 8 on the issue of funding.

Cited References:

Bretchel, S., L. Carbyn, G. Erickson, D. Hjertaas, C. Mamo, and P. McDougall. 1996. National recovery plan for the swift fox. Report No. 15. Ottawa: Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife Committee. 29 pp.

Moehrenschlager, A. 2000. Effects of ecological and human factors on the behavior and population dynamics of reintroduced Canadian swift foxes (Vulpes velox). Thesis for D.PhD at University of Oxford.

Moehrenschlager, A. and C. Moehrenschlager. 2001. Census of swift fox (Vulpes velox) in Canada and Northern Montana: 2000 - 2001. Alberta Sustainable Resources, Fish and Wildlife Division. Alberta Species at Risk Report #24. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Moehrenschlager, A., D.W. Macdonald, and C. Moehrenschlager. 2003. Reducing capture-related injuries and radio-collaring effects on swift foxes. In M.A. Sovada and L.N. Carbyn (eds.) The Swift Fox: Ecology and Conservation in a Changing World. Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Pruss, S. D., Fargey. P., Moehrenschlager, A. (in preparation). Recovery strategy for the Swift Fox (Vulpes velox) in Canada. Species at Risk Recovery Strategy Series. Parks Canada Agency, Ottawa. XX pp.