MEDICINE HAT, AB — A species that was declared extinct many years ago is beginning to show signs of a comeback in southern Alberta.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada says swift foxes, which were declared locally extinct, have been spotted in protected land outside of Medicine Hat recently, leading hope to a recovery of the species.
“The return of swift foxes to the Canadian wild is one of our country’s greatest species recovery stories,” said Carys Richards, Alberta communications coordinator with the Conservancy. “In today’s day and age, with so many animals getting added to the endangered species list, or habitat being critically imperilled, it’s really easy to focus on the negative.”
“I think it’s really important that we share these success stories when they come up, because it gives us hope for species like the swift fox, that were once locally extinct in Canada and have made this kind of comeback.”
A total of five or six foxes were spotted on the wildlife camera in the area.
The protected land is located south of Medicine Hat, west of the Saskatchewan border, and was purchased by the Conservancy in 2010 (Richards cannot reveal the exact location, to avoid interference with the animal’s recovery).
“When we acquired the property nearly 10 years ago, there were not swift foxes living on the property, but we knew it had a lot of great habitat,” said Richards. “Through the 10 years conserving of the property, stewarding the property and trying to make it more wildlife friendly that has resulted in this family of swift foxes living on it.”
Swift foxes were declared locally extinct in Canada, due to habitat loss from large-scale agriculture. The animal was found throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
In 1973, a Canadian program began captive breeding the animal from the United States with the goal of eventually reintroducing the animal to the Canadian prairies. From 1983-1997, more than 900 animals were released in the prairies.
Richards estimates there are approximately 100 wild swift foxes in Alberta, all descendants from the reintroduced animals.
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