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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Jonathan A. Jenks


south dakota, badlands national park, swift foxes, habitat, environment


In fall 2003, Badlands National Park led an effort to reintroduce swift foxes (Vulpes velox) to the Park and the surrounding grasslands. To assess swift fox population viability in the region, an estimate of habitat suitability was needed. Habitat selection analyses were conducted during fall 2004, spring 2005, and summer 2005 at the landscape-level and within the home range of foxes. Selection of habitat characteristics was primarily detected at the landscape-level; little evidence of habitat selection was detected within the home range. Swift foxes were predicted to use locations with greater visibility to avoid coyote predation. Locations with 150-m visibility were 7.2 times more likely (95% CI = 1.4 - 36.2) to be inhabited by swift foxes than locations with 50-m visibility. Swift foxes were 5.3 times more likely (95% CI = 1.1 - 26.0) to be killed by coyotes at locations with 50-m visibility than at locations with 150-m visibility. When vegetative characteristics impacted visibility, swift foxes selected for areas with less vegetation. Vegetation heights > 30 cm were avoided by swift foxes. Swift fox food habits were compared to prey abundance; swift foxes used deer mice and birds in proportion to availability. Prey availability did not influence swift fox habitat selection, with the exception of prairie dogs. Swift foxes used areas closer to prairie dogs towns and roads more than expected if use was random. A location 5 km away from prairie dog towns was 40 times less likely (95% CI = 14 - 116) to be inhabited by swift foxes then a location adjacent to a prairie dog town during summer 2005. A location 5 km away from a road was 188 times less likely (95% CI = 60 - 594) to be inhabited by swift foxes than areas adjacent to roads during summer 2005. Swift foxes selected for topography with less variation in slope over a broad scale. Locations with mean standard deviation in slope within 1200 m above 2.3 degrees were not used by swift foxes. Swift foxes selected private and Forest Service land over Badlands National Park during all time periods. Forest service land was selected over private property during summer 2005. The habitat models developed in this study will provide biologists with an assessment of potential swift fox habitat in the region surrounding Badlands National Park. Also, study findings may be useful to other partners in the conservation of swift foxes in western South Dakota and beyond.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Kit fox -- Habitat -- South Dakota -- Badlands National Park
Foxes -- South Dakota -- Badlands National Park
Wildlife reintroduction -- South Dakota -- Badlands National Park



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2006 Todd A. Russell. All rights reserved.