Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Numerous natural and anthropocentric factors influence endangered San Joaquin kit fox populations and must be considered in conservation and recovery efforts. Natural factors include fluctuating prey availability, interspecific competition, disease, and landscape physiography. Anthropocentric factors include habitat loss from agricultural, industrial, and urban conversion; competing land uses on remaining habitat including hydrocarbon production, military training activities, and grazing; and pesticide use. Of these, prey availability and habitat loss have the most profound effects on kit fox populations. Quantifying effects is difficult due to interactions among factors and due to potential density-dependent responses by kit foxes. These factors produce marked temporal and spatial variation in kit fox abundance. Consequently, designing conservation and recovery strategies is challenging. Some conservation strategies have been tested including relocation, supplemental feeding, and competitor control. Other strategies with high potential include habitat management, corridor establishment, and reintroduction. Additionally, kit foxes exhibit considerable ecological and behavioral plasticity which reduces impacts from some factors. For example, kit foxes are able to use a variety of prey and habitats. Also, kit foxes readily inhabit oilfields and grazed lands, and foxes even exhibit some capacity to persist in areas of intense urbanization and agriculture. Thus, this plasticity along with potential management strategies enhance the prospects for the conservation and recovery of San Joaquin kit foxes.