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. And in 2013, we filed a notice of intent to sue the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to protect the endangered San Joaquin kit fox, golden eagle, Pacific fisher and other wildlife from unintended poisonings from “super-toxic” rat poisons.

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, but this has still not been done.

We continue to fight for the safety of this fox, incluing from toxic pesticides and habiat destruction. In January 2017 the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit challenging Kern County's approval of the sprawling 8,000-acre Grapevine project, a development hat would destroy habitat for 36 rare plants and animals — including the San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard and threatened San Joaquin antelope squirrel.