Master's Theses

Date of Award

Spring 1984

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

Advisor

Jerry R. Choate

Abstract

The distributions and numerical status of the three species of foxes in Kansas have changed appreciably in the past century. Undocumented information suggests the red fox was common in parts of western Kansas, and therefore probably occurred statewide, at the time of settlement of the region by European man. Populations west of the Flint Hills diminished or were extirpated by the end of the 19th Century. Relict populations in the west or immigrants from the east, or both, possibly supplemented with individuals imported for sport hunting, began to reoccupy the former range in western Kansas (primarily in riparian habitats) by the 1930s, and in two or three decades the species dispersed essentially throughout Kansas. The species now is abundant in most areas of the state, especially in southwestern Kansas. The swift fox was abundant in western Kansas when that region was settled in the mid-1800s. It became rare by the 1930s, but apparently was not extirpated. The decline in numbers and distribution ceased at about mid-century, and the species subsequently reoccupied much of its original distribution in Kansas. Today, the swift fox is abundant on the High Plains of western Kansas. The gray fox was rare and occurred only in easternmost Kansas in the early 1900s, but became more numerous by about mid-century. It dispersed westward in riparian habitats associated with the Kansas and Arkansas river systems at about that time, and became relatively common in certain areas of western Kansas by the 1960s and 1970s. Subsequently, the species seemingly again became rare and its range possibly diminished eastward. Of the three species, the gray fox is least well adapted for survival in Kansas. It inhabits well-timbered areas, and would be expected to desert riparian communities that are degraded by drought or declining water supplies. The red fox fares well in sparse timber associated with riparian habitats, but would be expected eventually to decline in numbers in areas, such as along the Arkansas River west of Dodge City, where the trees are dead or dying and possibly will be removed. The swift fox possibly will benefit from such activities, and in any event now is the most abundant fox on the High Plains in the western third of the state.

Rights

Copyright 1984 David M. Zumbaugh

Comments

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