Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Seasonal Food Habits of Swift Fox (Vulpes velox) in
Cropland and Rangeland Landscapes in Western Kansas
We collected swift fox scats on two 259-km² study areas, approximately
5 km apart, in Sherman and Wallace counties in western Kansas in 1993 and 1996
(Fig. 1). Each study area represented a strikingly different land use and predominant
habitat cover. The landscape of one area was highly fragmented into cropland
fields (hereafter, cropland), and the other was largely contiguous native grassland,
primarily pasture (hereafter, rangeland). The cropland was relatively flat,
with approximately 76% of the area in cultivated fields. Most fields were in
a dryland winter wheat-fallow rotation; others were used for irrigated corn
and sunflower, and milo and sorghum production. Ten percent of the area was
enrolled in the U.S. Department of the Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program
(CRP) and seeded primarily to big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Indian
grass (Sorghastrum nutans), and switch grass (Panicium virgatum).
The area had 125 km of roads and 20 occupied homes. The rangeland was characterized
by rolling hills and approximately 87% of the area was moderately to heavily
grazed native pastures with primarily buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides),
blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and hairy grama (B. hirsuta).
A few cropland fields (wheat, sunflower) were interspersed in the rangeland.
The rangeland area had 66 km of roads and 10 occupied homes. Both study areas
had few trees (<1% of landscape).
|Fig. 1. Two 10-km2 study areas
in western Kansas surveyed for food habits of swift foxes in 1993 and
1996. Five 8-km long survey routes on each study area are indicated; an
alternate route replaced the nearest route for one survey because part
of the original route was inaccessible. Cropland habitat includes small
grain, row crops and fallow; grassland includes pastures. Nongrazed grassland
includes Conservation Reserve Program land planted to tall grasses and
hayland. The corners of the areas are expressed in NAD-27 Universal Transverse
Mercator coordinates for zone 14
Annual precipitation averaged 46.2 cm and occurred primarily in spring and
summer; however, there is typically a wide variation in annual precipitation.
Temperatures were typical of continental climates, with January the coldest
month ( = -2.6 C) and July warmest
( = 23.1 C; National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, 1993-1997).
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