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Blackfeet Tribe of Montana

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Thirty swift fox were released on the reservation Aug. 27 in a continuing program to rebuild numbers of the speedy predators. The animals are being returned to the region through a partnership between the tribe, Defenders of Wildlife and the Cochrane Ecological Institute. In 1998, 30 swift fox from Canada were set free, and 15 more were released last year. The new animals were provided by the institute, a captive breeding facility. The swift fox weighs an average of 5 pounds and is 12 inches tall and 31 inches long with a gray back and yellowish tan across its sides and legs. They feed on small rodents, grasshoppers and berries. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled in 1995 that federal protection of the fox was warranted but swift fox are not listed under the Endangered Species Act. The fox was nearly wiped out in 1969 by the cumulative effects of poisoning from wolf and coyote baits, trapping, a decline in prairie dogs and habitat loss. The animals have been well received on the reservation, said Ira Newbreast, director of the Blackfeet Fish and Game Department. "The people have adopted these animals as their own."

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