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Kit fox: ESRP expert responds to the handling of kit foxes

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Regarding the issue of eradicating kit foxes from Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium, an expert from the Environmental Species Recovery Program said that ESRP was never contacted for advice or guidance on the matter.

Brian L. Cypher, associate director and research ecologist, coordinates several of ESRP’s research projects on San Joaquin kit foxes. Cypher is listed as part of a group under the Bakersfield program staff.

The ESRP, according to its website, is a cooperative research program on biodiversity conservation in Central California. It is administered by California State University, Stanislaus.

Cypher confirmed he had some knowledge of the issue with kit foxes in Memorial Stadium. He indicated that BC has not gone about the process of destroying the dens and relocating the kit foxes correctly.

“ESRP was not contacted,” Cypher said. “If we had been, we would have done all we could to talk them out of destroying the den. If that wasn’t successful, we would have advised them of the appropriate procedures and provided contact info for agencies and individuals that could assist them.”

When destroying an endangered species’ habitat or relocating that species, there are a lot of variables that can stand in the way.

According to Cypher, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife states that to remove a den from an area, the den must be monitored to make sure that no kit foxes are present. Once monitored, the den must be further excavated to make sure that there are no more foxes inhabiting the den. After that, then the excavation can be filled in and compacted to discourage the foxes from returning and trying to reform the den.

All of these procedures should also be either conducted by a qualified biologist and/or at least have a biologist present when the procedures are being done. Cypher also said that most agencies will not allow the destruction of dens during the period January 1 and July 1, because that is what is defined as the breeding season for kit foxes.

Cypher, in two email interviews with The Rip, he was extremely critical of the way BC handled the situation.
Cypher does not believe a biologist was ever present during the procedures that took place and that the dens on the hillside of the stadium with the “BC” logo was never excavated. “It was just simply filled in,” said Cypher. An institution of higher learning and ideals such as BC should have set a better example for those at BC and surrounding community, according to Cypher. He believes that this was a tragedy and not a responsible action taken by the college.

“I’m extremely disappointed that BC chose to destroy the den instead of setting a good community example and preserving the den and accommodating the kit foxes, as the college apparently had done for, well, over two decades!” Cypher said. “With just a bit of creativity, I think that stadium could have been nicely landscaped (e.g., xeriscaping) in a manner that would have improved its appearance and accommodated the foxes. It was an opportunity lost.”

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2 Responses to “Kit fox: ESRP expert responds to the handling of kit foxes”

  1. Kim Williams on April 8th, 2016 9:08 am

    Brian Cypher had no problem advocating for the decimation of one of only 3 critical core habitats of the San Joaquin kit fox so his disappointment in this case is laughable.

    Panoche Valley is located in San Benito County. It is the only critical core habitat of the San Joaquin kit fox that has not been developed. The only other core habitat areas for this species are located in Kern County and the Corrizo Plain. Both of which have already been compromised by industrial solar and gas developments.

    A big fossil fuel energy developer wants to put an industrial solar project in Panoche Valley that would cover over half of the 7 mile square valley in solar panels and a substation.

    Note: Many fossil fuel energy companies purchase industrial renewable energy projects and use them to green wash the rest of their energy portfolio while also taking advantage of government subsidies and tax breaks for solar that are denied average Americans.

    Brian Cypher is a biologist-for-hire. He took money from the energy developer and wrote a report which stated the project was a benefit to the San Joaquin kit fox because of the mitigation land it would protect in perpetuity. The County Board of Supervisors and the State have issued the necessary permits for the project to be built based on Brian Cypher’s report. Never mind that the mitigation land is inferior to the habitat found on the valley floor that will be decimated. Never mind that the US Dept. of Fish & Wildlife determined the project could result in 100% deaths of the San Joaquin kit foxes currently living on the valley floor.

    So forgive me when I laugh at Brian Cypher’s indignation at the way Bakersfield College handled this situation. It’s always funny when the pot calls the kettle black.

  2. Anonymous on May 5th, 2016 1:03 pm

    These attacks are not based on facts and are completely unfounded. I can only assume that you are attacking Dr. Cypher because you support the burial of the kit fox pups at Bakersfield College. This article was about him speaking out against the treatment of foxes on campus and your attack seems to be an attempt to discredit him on the basis of some other issue or personal vendetta. I personally think that what the campus did is egregious, to remove adult foxes from the dens in February can only result in the death of the pups. By speaking out Dr. Cypher is trying to promote the conservation of our remaining kit foxes, something he has been doing in the San Joaquin Valley for the last 26 years.

    As to your comments about Panoche Valley, there may be some information you are not aware of. If you are and chose to ignore it, I think it is important for others to know the facts of the situation.

    Panoche Valley is not undisturbed habitat for the San Joaquin kit fox. The portion of Panoche Valley where the new solar farm is being developed was previous dry land farmed. You can still see the till lines if you zoom-in in google earth. Also, the other two core areas for kit foxes, western Kern County and the Carrizo Plain, are much larger areas that support a more substantial portion of the population than Panoche Valley. That said, I don’t support habitat conversion to solar farms, but if we have no way to stop it, it’s better if it happens on inferior habitat (like old ag land).

    One of the complications with trying to protect the habitat in Panoche Valley is that the land is privately owned and can be developed at any time. Recently a large parcel of habitat was tilled under with no consequences. The land that is preserved as a result of the solar farm is actually pristine habitat. The Silver Creek Ranch is one area that is now protected in perpetuity (forever) as a result of converting old ag land into a solar farm. Also, Silver Creek Ranch is specifically named as an area that should be conserved by the Recovery Plan for Upland Species of the San Joaquin Valley, California (USFWS 1998). Again, while the conversion of habitat is a terrible thing, the benefit we get by permanently conserving a core area for kit fox populations is at least a silver lining.

    I’m not sure what document you are referencing that says 100% of kit foxes will die as a result of the project. The draft environmental impact report from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Fish and Wildlife Service states a “May Effect, and is Likely to Adversely Affect” status for San Joaquin Kit Foxes. Also, the solar farms on the Carrizo Plain did not have a single fox death as the result of their work and they have documented kit foxes reproducing under the panels since construction has ended.

    What I find laughable is that your egg farm is on San Joaquin kit fox habitat.

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Kit fox: ESRP expert responds to the handling of kit foxes