Conserving this Nation’s fish and other aquatic resources cannot be successful without the partnership of Tribes; they manage or influence some of the most important aquatic habitats both on and off reservations. In addition, the Federal government and the Service have distinct and unique obligations toward Tribes based on trust responsibility, treaty provisions, and statutory mandates.
Swift Fox Reintroduction on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
After the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority determined reintroduction of the swift fox to be a top priority, they sought and received funding from a US Fish and Wildlife Tribal Wildlife Grant to make reintroduction a reality.
The swift fox is of great significance to the Oglala Sioux people. The Tokala Warrior Society, or Kit Fox (swift fox) Society of the Oglala Sioux has long used the fox as the symbol to represent their cunningness. Historically, there have been swift foxes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation since its creation in the 1890’s. However, in the past 40 years sightings of the swift fox have been few. (This is likely because of the poisoning of prairie dogs to control their population. Prairie dogs are the main food source for both the swift fox and the black footed ferret and their poisoning effect the populations of both species.) The apparent decline prompted the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority (OSPRA) to examine the swift fox population and look into reintroduction possibilities.
OSPRA received funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Tribal Landowner Incentive grant from 2005-2007. The research determined that indeed there was not a viable swift fox population present and helped start the reintroduction planning. A further grant, a Tribal Wildlife Grant, was then granted in order to carry out the reintroduction process.
To begin the reintroduction process 21 sites were evaluated on the Reservation to decide the best place to release the foxes. The reintroduction required a relocation process of swift foxes from other states. In total 30 foxes where relocated from Wyoming and 30 from Colorado in 2009. Then in 2010 another 25 foxes were relocated from Colorado to the western part of the Pine Ridge reservation. Before release, all of the foxes were imbedded with radio chips and fitted with radio collars for monitoring purposes.
In celebration of the reintroduction a Swift Fox Dance night was held on the reservation. Put on by the Oglala Lakota College and the OSPRA the celebration honored the swift fox and showed gratitude for the reintroduction. There is a hope that reintroduction of the swift foxes will also signify a revitalization of the Tokala Society.
After the reintroduction, 19 new swift fox pups were found on the reservation in the summer of 2010. The reproduction of the relocated swift foxes is an extremely positive sign and the project is considered a success by the biologists. At this time however there is no more funding for future reintroduction or monitoring of the introduced foxes.
Thanks to Trudy Ecoffey, OSPRA Wildlife Biologis,t for being interviewed and providing the information needed to write this article.