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Swift fox survey along Heartland Expressway Corridor.
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Swift fox survey along Heartland Expressway Corridor.
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  • Abstract:
    The swift fox (Vulpes velox) is a small canid classified as endangered within the

    state of Nebraska. Future construction of the Heartland Expressway Corridor (HEC), a

    300 km road expansion project in the panhandle of the state, may impact the resident

    swift fox population.

    A scent-bait survey of the HEC was carried out in the summer of 2014 and a

    smaller survey was completed in February 2015. Swift foxes were documented in Dawes

    County and northern Kimball County. The areas immediately surrounding these locations

    show significantly higher amounts of grassland and lower amounts of agriculture than

    expected. Swift fox predators were found in larger numbers along HEC sections that have

    already been expanded to 4-lane divided highway than expected.

    Three swift fox were also live trapped and collared with Global Positioning

    System (GPS) tracking collars in the fall and winter of 2014. Location data from one

    swift fox collar was retrieved. The home range for this individual was 25.70 km2 in size

    and made up of 97% grassland and 2% developed land. This male traveled an average of

    3.03 km a night and 42.6% of the documented movement was from one side of the HEC

    to the other over the course of 113 nights.

    The data from the camera surveys and GPS collar give a basis for tentative

    conclusions about swift fox in Nebraska. Swift fox were not common on the Heartland

    Corridor Expressway. They occurred at the north and south portions of the panhandle.

    Swift fox appear to have about the same home range as reported in studies from

    surrounding states about 4 square miles, and the collared animal did spend more time

    along roads than anywhere else but around its presumed den. Swift fox did occur most

    often in low grasslands in this study, compared to other types of land cover.

    Additional mammal species documented by camera survey included raccoon

    (Procyon lotor), mule and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus and Odocoileus

    virginianus), striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), coyote (Canis latrans), feral cat (Felis

    catus) and American badger (Taxidea taxus), and less frequent species. Species presence

    appears to be influenced by vegetation composition and human population density.

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