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ENDANGERED WOLF CENTER SETS NEW “FIRSTS” WHEN SWIFT FOX KITS ARE BORN
Breakthrough in Recording Breeding Behavior of Critical Species
EUREKA, MO.: Three swift fox kits, one male and two females, born to a breeding trio of foxes at the Endangered Wolf Center have caused quite a stir, creating new milestones at the facility and nationally in the federal breeding program.
The kits, aptly born on Mother’s Day weekend, is the first litter born at the EWC in a dozen years. The gender of the kits was determined by St. Louis Zoo Veterinarian, Dr. Luis Padilla at a four-week vaccination session held at the center. The kits all received medication for worm prevention, a check of eyesight, assessments of weight and general health. Additionally, each of the kits was fitted with a microchip, similar to those given to pet dogs and cats.
“We are very excited to have these new kits for the public to see and, most importantly, for the information we were able to observe in the entire breeding process,” said Ginny Busch, executive director of EWC. She noted the public can help raise the kits by raising donations for EWC.
Using a trail camera in the foxes’ enclosure, EWC staff recorded the first photos ever of swift fox breeding behavior—an essential tool in understanding and protecting the species. It was also the first litter born to the current mating pair and the first time a litter has been born to a trio in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service program.
While just the pair are the actual “parents” of the kits, a second female helps raise the litter. Trios of swift foxes are known in the wild, but are very rare in managed care facilities and a first for the federal program, said Regina Mossotti, director of animal care at EWC. Swift foxes have been housed at EWC since 1999 as part of that conservation program.
The species is a true success story for canid conservation. Once eliminated from 90% of their historic range in the U.S., efforts were made to return them to their natural habitat. The Swift Fox Conservation Team was formed by a coalition of ten states to which the fox is native. They have worked with landowners to provide suitable habitat and protect any dens seen, and have developed methods to monitor the wild population status and distribution.
Releases of swift foxes were done in several areas, the earliest being the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and business mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner’s Bad River Ranch in South Dakota. The last kits born at EWC were sent to Canada to participate in a reintroduction program. Since 2001, the swift fox is now present in 40% of their original range.
The public can see the fox litter along with their wolves and African wild dog friends at EWC any Wednesday through Sunday. The new “PredaTour” is offered Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The price of the tour is $12 for adults and $10 for children 4-14. Children 3 and under are free.
SWIFT FOX FACTS:
• Swift foxes are small, weighing 4-6 pounds, and are about 12 inches tall and 30 inches long, buff-colored with lighter patches on the throat, chest and belly, and characteristic black patches on the sides of the muzzle and the tip of the tail.
• How swift are swift foxes? They can run up to 40 miles per hour because they have to be fast. In a “eat or be eaten” world, swift foxes need to catch prey like prairie dogs, hares, squirrels and birds—and avoid their predators, coyotes, bobcats and raptors.
• They are native to short-grass and mixed grass prairies from central Texas to central Alberta, Canada.
• Swift foxes are terrific digger and use their dens all year long. The dens are utilized to escape predators, avoid temperature extremes and water loss, raise their young and rest during the day.
• Swift fox dens can have up to 17 branches with two chambers, each up to three feet deep.
About the Endangered Wolf Center
The Endangered Wolf Center, the premier wolf conservation, education, reproduction, and research center in the United States, was founded in 1971 by Dr. Marlin Perkins and his wife, Carol. Perkins headed the Saint Louis Zoo from 1962 until 1970 when he became director emeritus. He is best known as the co-creator and host of the famed “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” A world-acclaimed zoologist and naturalist, Perkins passed away in 1986.
The EWC, located on 63 isolated, wooded acres about 25 miles southwest of St. Louis, has been called “the cornerstone of the Mexican gray wolf program” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It has been the birth site for 170 Mexican grays, and at least one member of each existing wild pack can trace its ancestry either directly or indirectly to the EWC. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) has awarded The Endangered Wolf Center with its North American Conservation Award. For more information about the EWC, go to: www.endangeredwolfcenter.org and follow us on Facebook.