, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 93-102

Genetic diversity in a reintroduced swift fox population

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Abstract

Swift fox (Vulpes velox) were historically distributed in southwestern South Dakota including the region surrounding Badlands National Park (BNP). The species declined during the mid-1800s, largely due to habitat loss and poisoning targeted at wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (Canis latrans). Only a small population of swift foxes near Ardmore, which is located in Fall River County, South Dakota, persisted. In 2003, a reintroduction program was initiated at BNP with swift foxes translocated from Colorado and Wyoming. Foxes released in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 were translocated from Colorado (BNP-Colorado) whereas in 2006, released foxes were translocated from Wyoming (BNP-Wyoming). Our objective was to evaluate genetic diversity and structure of the restored swift fox population in the area surrounding BNP compared to source fox populations in an area of Colorado and Wyoming, as well as the local swift fox population neighboring BNP near Ardmore in Fall River County, South Dakota. A total of 400 swift foxes (28 released in 2003, 28 released in 2004, 26 released in 2005, 26 released in 2006, 252 wild-born foxes, 40 individual foxes from the Ardmore area of South Dakota) was genotyped using twelve microsatellite loci. We report mean gene diversity values of 0.778 (SD = 0.156) for the BNP-Colorado population, 0.753 (SD = 0.165) for the BNP-Wyoming population, 0.751 (SD = 0.171) for the BNP population, and 0.730 (SD = 0.166) for the Fall River population. We also obtained Fst values ranging from 0.014 to 0.029 for pair-wise comparisons of fox populations (BNP, Fall River, BNP-Wyoming, BNP-Colorado). We conclude that the reintroduced fox population around BNP has high genetic diversity comparable to its source populations in Colorado and Wyoming. Although genetic diversity indicates that the reintroduction was successful, additional time is necessary to fully evaluate long-term genetic maintenance and interconnectivity among these populations.