Vulpes Velox, more commonly known as the Swift Fox, is one of Canada's threatened prairie species. The changing landscape of the prairie in the 1800's inflicted a great amount of stress on the northern Swift Fox populations. This stress could be attributed to livestock predator control, human trapping, and agricultural development resulting in habitat loss (Herrero et al 1991 cited in Cullingham & Moehrenschlager, 2013). As a result, the Swift Fox has been declared an endangered species in Canada since the early 1980s (Herrero, Schroeder, & Scott-Brown, 1986).
Over the past few decades, the viability of Swift Fox reintroduction has been addressed and has been determined to be viable for the Canadian prairies. Reintroduction efforts started in the early 1980s and lasted a decade, with the areas of focus being Alberta and Saskatchewan (Cullingham & Moehrenschlager, 2013). The reintroductions took place along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and surrounding conservation areas (Cullingham & Moehrenschlager, 2013). These reintroduction efforts demonstrate that there is a potential for reintroduction in Canada, as these programs have been cited as the most significant in respect to Swift Fox habitat growth (Carbyn, 1998 cited in Waters 2010).
Canada is an ideal location for reintroduction programs, as the short-grass prairies provide a desirable habitat for the Swift Fox (Ausband & Moehrenschlager, 2009). The previous successful reintroduction attempts in Canada have shown that the long term success of the programs are dependent on multiple environmental and anthropogenic factors. The aim of the study is to conduct a Multi criteria evaluation (MCE) that accounts for multiple criteria and constraints that affect the reintroduction of the Swift Fox into southern Alberta.
Given the historical patterns of the Swift Fox population growth in respect to reintroduction, GIS processes present themselves as a highly beneficial tool in determining future areas of reintroduction. Studies such as Radiarta et al. (2008), have successfully used GIS-based MCE's to determine optimal reintroduction locations for an extirpated species, suggesting that a similar approach is reasonable for addressing the objectives of this study. The research outcome will attempt to address how the Swift Fox could potentially respond to non-native and modified environments; an area of knowledge that is generally insufficient (Kamler et al., 2003).
Purpose of the Research
The purpose of this project is to determine the potential reintroduction sites for the Swift Fox in southern Alberta which will be different from the previous reintroduction initiatives.
1. Use relevant literature and other sources to identify the prevalent factors that determine a suitable habitat for the Swift Fox;
2. Design a GIS model that will allow for the identification of suitable reintroduction sites;
3. Apply and correct the designed GIS model to determine an appropriate site; and,
4. Evaluate the strengths and limitations of GIS model.