Lonsinger, R., B. M. Kluever, L. K. Hall, R. T. Larsen, E. M. Gese, L. P. Waits, and R. N. Knight. 2020. Conservation of kit foxes in the Great Basin Desert: A review and recommendations. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 11:679–698. doi:10.1111/JFWM-20-025.
The kit fox Vulpes macrotis is a species of concern to land managers in the Great Basin Desert of North America. Once common, kit foxes have declined from historical levels. Research on kit foxes in western Utah has spanned nearly 70 years and has potential to inform management and conservation within the Central Basin and Range Ecoregion of the Great Basin Desert. We conducted a systematic literature review on the northern kit fox subspecies V. m. nevadensis. We focused on studies conducted in the Central Basin and Range Ecoregion, which represents the majority of the Great Basin Desert, and provided a comprehensive summary of their ecology and demographics for resource managers. To guide future monitoring, we also reviewed techniques used for kit fox monitoring and research, and evaluated the strengths, limitations, and advances of these techniques. We identified four key factors that deserve consideration when selecting monitoring techniques for kit foxes: estimable parameters, reliability, cost, and rate of data return. Finally, we identify four primary management recommendations. We recommend that managers (i) expand kit fox monitoring and population assessments more broadly across the Great Basin Desert. To ensure future monitoring meets the needs of resource managers, we recommend (ii) the application of a structured decision-making process to identify key parameters and approaches. To better understand the factors limiting kit fox populations we recommend (iii) population viability and parameter sensitivity analyses to identify drivers of population change. Finally, based on evidence that genetic diversity of kit fox populations has been maintained by undescribed patterns of gene flow, we recommend (iv) a broad-scale assessment of population connectivity to identify corridors supporting metapopulation dynamics. These recommendations will facilitate proactive conservation of kit foxes and management practices to reduce future population declines.