Kit Fox Camera Survey

This report summarizes a survey project that used remotely-placed, automatic wildlife cameras to detect the possible presence of the San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) at the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve, Merced, California. This subspecies has experienced population declines for many decades. By the 1950s the principal factors leading to this decline were habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation associated with agricultural, industrial, and urban development in the San Joaquin Valley. More than 95% of potential kit fox habitat in the San Joaquin Valley has been converted to irrigated agriculture or to urban and industrial uses. Shooting, trapping, poisoning, electrocution, and road kills are additional human-induced mortality factors. Natural mortality factors include predation, starvation, flooding, disease, and drought. In 1967 the San Joaquin kit fox was listed as a federal endangered species and in 1971 the state of California listed it as threatened.  The San Joaquin kit fox has been sighted in several areas in eastern Merced County, but there have been no recent confirmed sightings or direct evidence of their occurrence in the Reserve.  To support the US Fish and Wildlife Species Recovery Plan and plan updates for this species (1983, 1998, 2010), we undertook a camera survey to try to detect the presence of kit foxes in the Reserve. From March 2014 to May 2015 we placed automatic Bushnell brand wildlife cameras at 24 locations for a total of 35 deployments. Cameras were operated in the field for over 12,600 hours. From this effort, 418 photographs and 274 videos have been archived.  We captured photographic images of 9 mammal species, 26 bird species, and a single amphibian. No kit foxes were detected.