Although the current range of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) borders large areas of farmland, the ecology of this species rarely has been studied within an agricultural setting. In central California, we examined habitat use, prey availability, and diet of radio-collared kit foxes inhabiting an aqueduct right-of-way (ROW) bordered by farmland. During both years of study (1998–1999), nocturnal locations of foxes occurred more often than expected (based on habitat availability) in the ROW and less often than expected within annual crops. Orchards were used disproportionately more than their availability during 1998 and were used in proportion to availability during 1999. Kit foxes traveled up to 1.1 km into annual crops and up to 1.5 km into orchards. Among diurnal locations (den sites) of foxes, 98% were within the ROW. Live-trapping revealed higher densities and greater diversity of rodents along the ROW than within farmland. Remains of murid rodents were found in 79% of kit fox scats. Our findings indicated that kit foxes ranged into orchards and annual croplands at night, but almost never occupied these areas during the day. The lack of den sites and low prey availability within farmland probably limited the ability of kit foxes to exploit and occupy these areas. Providing artificial den sites within croplands (especially within orchards) and along canals may increase use of farmland by kit foxes and facilitate their movement between isolated patches of natural lands.
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Vol. 67 • No. 2