After a 51-year absence, swift foxes have returned the grasslands of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana, joining other native wildlife found within these Native-owned lands. Twenty-seven swift foxes were brought to the area from Wyoming in September, marking the beginning of a five-year reintroduction program led by the Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes of Fort Belknap.
The swift fox—a small carnivore no bigger than a house cat—is the latest locally extinct species to be returned to Fort Belknap under the leadership of the Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department.
“Along with (plains bison) buffalo and black-footed ferrets, swift foxes are now back where they belong,” said Harold “Jiggs” Main, Director of Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department.
The goal of the program is to establish a self-sustaining population of swift foxes on the reservation. To achieve this goal, 13 more foxes will be transported from Wyoming in October. An additional 40-50 foxes will also be relocated from Colorado and Kansas during the second and third years of the program and moved to Fort Belknap. The Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department and partners will monitor the reintroduced foxes over several years to ensure they are thriving.
Partners include the Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department, the Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Aaniiih Nakoda College, Little Dog Wildlife LLC, Clemson University, Defenders of Wildlife, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, American Prairie Reserve, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and WWF.