There's a resurgence of swifts foxes up on the Hi Line and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is using several devices to help conduct surveys on them. You won't see them during the day as they are mostly nocturnal, but FWP has recorded more than 50 of the fast and furry animals in their latest survey, which stretches along a large chunk of the Hi Line.
Non-game biologist Nicole Hussey is in charge of the region and is overseeing several crews conducting the surveys. She says it's a lot of space to cover and time to spend, but all worth it to gather crucial data.
"The main goal of these surveys is to actually get population estimates with fox that we have here in region six," Hussey said. "So we want to know how many we have. And then also we want to see if their range has shifted or any kind of occupancy has changed over the years."
That number is up from their last survey, which recorded about 30 animals.
"It's pretty important as far as like tracking their numbers," swift fox technician Daniel Johnson said. "I feel like it's going pretty well. We're getting quite a few. We're seeing them pretty much nightly when we're out. Even a lot of our camera trap lines have been getting fox photos."
They have cameras set up in varying spots that capture pictures when they sense movement and have been documenting the animals frequently since they started at the end of last year.
FWP says a resurgence like this will be good for the area, as swift foxes play a key role in the ecosystem, serving as a pest control against grasshoppers and locusts.
"We started doing them in the early 2000. This is the fifth one we've done," Hussey said. "It's been going on for a long time since Canada started doing reintroductions in the late nineties. This has been a longstanding project and it's a big undertaking."
There are two methods used to collect data on the foxes, which are implemented at all hours of the day. The cameras are one of them.
"We do live trapping where we're nocturnal along with the foxes," swift fox technician Julia Nelson explained about the other method. "We will go out and set traps that are up for three nights in a row. Then we check them twice a night and collect data on the foxes for the ongoing census and then for the camera trapping."
FWP has crews working all the way from Havre to Opheim, collecting data on the foxes, which are about the size of a house cat and resemble juvenile coyotes.
The surveying will take place on both public and private land. With a few months left in the survey, FWP hopes to see many more foxes pop out of their dens and help grow the swift fox population. In addition to the FWP surveys, they encourage anyone who sees a swift fox to contact Nicole Hussey at 406-808-7111.