CSU Bakersfield Fox Population Campus Kit

Recently, the CSU Bakersfield Public Safety Team sent an email to students, staff, and faculty on campus regarding a speed limit change for a road on campus. The email reads: “Effective immediately, the speed limit for CSUB Way, around the curve, has been temporarily reduced to 15 mph. This is a required mitigation measure for a kitty fox den near the road, please slow down and observe the speed limit.

Few of the email recipients may not have known that the university was home to an endangered species. In fact, in 2018, The Runner covered the sarcoptic mange that was threatening their population.

For more information on the kit fox population and their mange epidemic, we got in touch with CSU Stanislaus researcher Dr. Brian Cypher, who has studied foxes here on campus. He connected us with a few members of his group who keep a close eye on endangered species. Erica Kelly and Nicole Deatherage are part of the Endangered Species Recovery Program (ESRP) and are both CSU Bakersfield graduates of the Biology MS program. What follows is a Q&A with Kelly and Deatherage about endangered species and their history with the university.

Q. How is the kit fox population in Kern/Bakersfield County doing in its efforts to rebound from the 2018 scabies outbreak?

A. Sarcoptic mange first appeared in kit foxes from San Joaquin to Bakersfield in 2013 and Taft in 2019. So far, these are the only two places where mange has been detected in kit foxes. The population of Bakersfield has been extensively monitored and our annual remote camera survey shows that their numbers have declined by almost 70% since the survey began in 2015. Historically, the population of kit foxes in Bakersfield was estimated between 400 and 500 individuals, but more recently estimates are only 100 to 200 individuals. The situation in Taft is more recent and we do not yet have a clear idea of ​​the extent of the impact on this population.

Q. How much damage has the disease caused to the population?

A. While kit foxes have adapted well to urban development, mange has only appeared in San Joaquin kit foxes living in urban areas. The Bakersfield kit foxes have been a robust and informative population to study kit fox biology and also add to the numbers and resilience of the overall kit fox population in the San Joaquin Valley. Over 90% of kit fox habitat has been converted to human use (habitation, agriculture, industry, etc.), so all remaining populations are significant.

Q. Have they or will they be able to go back to their original numbers?

A. We have not seen an official increase in numbers since the beginning of the scabies outbreak in Bakersfield. According to our camera survey data, the population has somewhat “bottomed out” and stabilized in recent years (see graph below) and this stabilization is likely due to the population drop in levels low enough that mange doesn’t have much opportunity to spread and kill other kit foxes. We have, however, had 11 litters reported this year, compared to only four litters reported last year, which may indicate an increase in the population. Sarcoptic mange has been extensively studied in a similar canid, the red fox, and may exhibit a cyclical pattern where the number of foxes with mange repeatedly increases and decreases. This is likely due to the population dropping and scabies not spreading as quickly (similar to what we see with kit foxes) and then the population recovering and scabies having more foxes and more foxes. opportunities to infest individuals. In red foxes, mange never seems to die off, but neither does it seem to kill the entire population. Mange will likely behave similarly in kit foxes and this is supported by a recent modeling paper published by Dr. Brian Cypher and colleagues.

Q. In a 2018 interview with The Runner, Dr. Brian Cypher mentioned his disappointment with CSU Bakersfield’s embrace of the kit fox population on our campus. Do you think they’ve tried harder since then?

A. CSU Bakersfield has always been a hot spot for Kit Foxes in Bakersfield. Kit foxes enjoy open landscaping, abundant rodents, quiet evenings, and structures to hide under on school campuses. They also offer something for the school in rodent and insect control (these are their favorite natural foods), talks about endangered species and their ecology, research opportunities, and are just an interesting species to observe, particularly if there are pups and by the way! The Endangered Species Recovery Program (ESRP) was pleased to see that CSU Bakersfield had cordoned off the recently discovered home den, slowed the speed limit, and sent a campus-wide email advising of the litter. This is the best thing that can be done for a kit fox litter.

Q. Has CSU Bakersfield done more to protect the species as it begins to recover from the deadly scabies outbreak?

A. We have regularly had members of the public, including folks at CSU Bakersfield, reporting fox sightings to us over the years, which is very helpful for our data, even if the fox is not affected. scabies.

Q. What could the school or its students do differently as we continue to share our campus with such incredible creatures?

A. Continuing to report kit fox sightings, including roadkill or other kit fox deaths, to the ESRP is very helpful, especially if they can also take a picture of the fox and let us know. to send . We can usually tell if a fox has mange or is otherwise injured by a cell phone photo. We are a very small organization and rely heavily on members of the public as our eyes and ears for Kit Fox information. Sightings can be reported to our office phone: 661-835-7810, our email: [email protected], our Facebook group (join!): Facebook.com/groups/friendsoftheSJKF, or my cell phone (Nicole Deatherage, Wildlife Biologist): 703-209-2113. If you see a fox, be sure to give it enough space. Kit foxes are primarily nocturnal, so they usually sleep during the busiest times on campus and are usually left alone until fed.

Some sightings of kit foxes and their young have been made on campus. Frankie Nadal, a copy editor at The Runner said the following about his sighting: “I saw a few different animals running around campus. It was the week before spring break, that Thursday. In the early afternoon, around 2 p.m., and through the administrative quad. I was walking in the afternoon, taking a short break from work, and on the way back to the Veterans Center, there was an older person standing and looking around me. They called me and pointed out the kit foxes. There were a few of them, a mother and a few of her babies, I believe. The little ones were playing while she looked after them, it was just adorable! Unfortunately, my eyesight isn’t great, and I had to go back to work, so I couldn’t really keep up with them when they were away. I imagine they have returned to their lair, since this area is now closed for environmental protection.