SAVING THE SAN JOAQUIN KIT FOX
Even with its big, conspicuous ears and relatively long legs, the slender-built San Joaquin kit fox is the smallest member of the dog family in North America. Historically, this kit fox was widely distributed throughout grassland, scrubland, and wetland communities in the San Joaquin Valley and adjacent low foothills, but agricultural, urban, and industrial development in the Valley — including oil and gas development — has led to extensive and continuing loss of native habitat, the primary threat to kit foxes. Today, much of the kit fox’s remaining habitat is extremely fragmented, movement corridors are degraded or blocked, and only a few large areas of native grasslands remain on the San Joaquin Valley’s perimeter.
Besides habitat loss, the San Joaquin kit fox is threatened by pesticides and rodenticides expelled through intensive agricultural use, by industrial and infrastructure projects, and in residential areas in the Central Valley. Kit foxes’ small-mammal prey base has been significantly reduced by rodenticides, which not only kill kit foxes’ prey, but can also kill kit foxes when they build up in the foxes’ bodies. In 2006, the Center released a report on Bay Area species harmed by pesticides, and the next year we sued the Environmental Protection Agency for registering and allowing the use of 56 toxic pesticides in habitats for 11 Bay Area species. In 2009, we filed a notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Land Management for approving a new oil and gas lease sale in sensitive kit fox habitat.
The San Joaquin kit fox was federally listed as an endangered species in 1967 and was listed by California four years later; the fox has gotten some help from a 1998 recovery plan for upland San Joaquin Valley, in which it’s described as an “umbrella species” — meaning efforts to save the fox’s habitat will benefit other native plants and animals. In August 2010, the Center petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox.
Contact: Ileene Anderson
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