Working with Rural Students to Document Swift Fox on Nebraska Ranches

The loss and alteration of native grasslands has resulted in significant reductions in habitat availability for grassland obligate species such as the swift fox (Vulpes velox). Identified as a Tier 1 at–risk species, swift fox are estimated to occupy 21% of their historic range, but the exact distribution and relative health of swift fox populations in Nebraska  remains in question. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), in collaboration with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and Chadron State College (CSC) have begun an effort to document the occurrence of swift fox and identify the anthropogenic and ecological factors that limit their distribution. However, in a state which is 97% privately owned, such an endeavor is extremely challenging because access to land ultimately limits inference about swift fox populations and thereby management efficacy.


By surveying for swift fox on private lands we are adding significantly to our understanding of what is limiting this rare species in Nebraska; moreover, because camera traps attract a multitude of species we are documenting and thereby aiding in the management of other species of conservation concern here in Nebraska.

Current Status

Using a unique approach which incorporates landowners in the conservation process we are sending undergraduate students back to their family ranches to survey for swift fox. Many students in range management, wildlife biology, and similar conservation majors at CSC and UNL are from working ranches in Western Nebraska, which presents us with a unique opportunity to allow students to realize their conservation interests on their family lands and assist NGPC, NDOR, and USFS in facilitating the conservation of a Tier 1 species. Our project is training students and working with them to set camera ‘traps’ on their family lands each spring and fall.

Project Website
Swift Fox
Lucía Corral teaching students at Chadron State College how to use trail cameras. Photo: Teresa Frink
Lucía Corral teaching students at Chadron State College how to use trail cameras. Photo: Teresa Frink
Principal Investigator(s)
-Joseph J Fontaine, NE CFWRU
-Jenny M. Dauer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
-Teresa J. Frink, Chadron State College
Graduate Student(s)
-Lucía Corral, Ph.D.
Project Coordinator(s)
Claire Helmke, March 2016 - December 2016
Project Duration
July 2015-July 2018
-Nebraska Environmental Trust
Project Location
Western Nebraska