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Causes and Rates of Mortality of Swift Foxes in Western Kansas

Study Area

We studied populations of swift foxes on 2 259-km2 study areas in Sherman and Wallace counties in western Kansas. Each study area represented a different land use and predominant habitat. The landscape of 1 area was highly fragmented into cropland fields (hereafter, Cropland Area) and the other was largely contiguous native grassland, primarily pasture (hereafter, Rangeland Area). The Cropland Area was relatively flat, with approximately 76% of the area in cultivated fields, primarily a dryland winter wheat-fallow rotation, but included corn, milo, sunflowers, and sorghum. Ten percent of the area was enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program and seeded primarily to big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), and switch grass (Panicum virgatum). The area had 125 km of roads and 20 occupied homes. The Rangeland Area was generally rolling hills; approximately 87% of the area was moderately to heavily grazed pastures, with a few cropland fields interspersed. The area had 66 km of roads and 10 occupied homes.

Both study areas had few (<1% of landscape) trees. The average annual precipitation was 46.2 cm, occurring primarily in spring and summer; however, there is typically wide variation in annual precipitation. Temperatures were typical of continental climates, with January coldest (Mean of X= -2.6°C) and July warmest (Mean of X= 23.1°C; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 1996, 1997).

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