CSUB students make efforts to protect kit fox populations on campus

May 17, 2023 /

California State University of Bakersfield (CSUB) is home to the endangered kit fox species and the San Joaquin Kit Fox Society. The group aims to protect and preserve the kit fox population currently taking shelter on campus. 

The Kit Fox Society is comprised of CSUB students from different backgrounds who started meeting as recently as April in response to the outrage from the community over the animal’s treatment. 

Earlier this school year, Associated Students Incorporated (ASI) members stated that the staff, faculty, and students have been coming to Board of Directors meetings and Committee meetings to voice their concerns. 

Sarah Alame is a CSUB student, President of the Students for Sustainability Club, and ASI Director of Sustainability. Alame is part of the Faculty Sustainability Committee, a group of faculty, staff, and facilities representatives. This committee has documented multiple complaints about how the kit foxes’ habitats are being treated. After weeks of no change, Alame and other supporters created a petition with over 2500 signed, it’s titled: Protection of the Endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox and their Prey at CSU Bakersfield.

“Faculty started bringing up these concerns: What are they doing out there? Are they fumigating, and what are they putting in these borrows,” Alame said.

The university has been adamant about addressing the public’s concern, and they also reiterate that the fumigation was part of ongoing efforts to minimize rodents on campus. 

“We were met with silence, people were not being held accountable,” explained Alame. 

“This petition gained a lot of traction, a lot of people were interested and wanted to see what they can do, which was kind of the birth of this [society],” said Alame. 

Megan McCullah-Boozer is a member of the Kit Fox Society and plasdsdsn spending the summer doing field studies with the foxes. She mentioned that students on campus have an Instagram fan page for the campus squirrel population, and social media pages to endorse their extermination from the environment. 

“There are some environmental concerns on how we’re stewarding the land that we have,” McCullah-Booger continued. “Throughout the summer we will have the Kit Fox Lab running, and we’ll be doing cameras still, monitoring dens. There has been some conversation with the Provost with assisting with some research funds for kit foxes on campus.”

The various ground holes scattered throughout the campus have been a topic for discussion. It is widely believed that Kit Foxes have started repurposing abandoned squirrel borrows for their new homes due to loss of habitat and prey. For individuals struggling to step around these easy-to-miss holes, the Kit Fox Society has begun the process of flagging every single one.

The scope of the issue has reached county attention. Recently the Sierra Club Kern- Kaweah Chapter sent an open letter to the director of California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the President of CSUB, and the Kit Fox Society have also received the formal complaint. 

The letter detailed seven different times dens were harmed and stated that there is evidence that the fumigation occurred without proper procedures, including a lack of protective equipment (PPE). The letter called for Fish and Wildlife to investigate whether CSUB was in violation of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and federal (ESA) laws. 

Alexandra Brown, a CSUB graduate, expressed her anger about the CSUB administration not notifying the campus of the planned California ground squirrel fumigation.

“I remember the day I became aware of the situation, specifically March 2nd, 2023. I was crossing campus, and there was a big truck with all this tube or wire, or coil… There was no notice of this, no emails sent to campus — nothing,” Brown described. 

José Juan García, the society’s President, said it took months to get a meeting with the CSUB Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Vernon B. Harper Jr..

In late April a vehicle driving through the CSUB campus struck and killed a Kit Fox known as the “H” Fox because of the letter painted onto the fur as a marker. According to the Kit Fox Society, H Fox was a female and a caring mother. This death sparked outrage among the student body which resulted in campus police installing a temporary sign that reads, “Drive with caution.”

CSUB students attribute the growing number of Kit Fox deaths due to natural causes as a sign they lack shelter and food because of the fumigation of squirrel habitats, according to the dialogue on Discord. 

David Hernandez is a CSUB alumn who likes to stay in touch with his community. Through the popular communication site Discord, Hernandez discovered the problems facing the campus’ kit fox population. Groups like Students for Sustainability and the Native and Indigenous Coalition have helped spread awareness about efforts to help the wildlife. 

“I found the Discord for the Kit Fox Society, and there were so many people there. They were talking about a way to get the attention of the President,” Hernandez said.

During a vigil held in the memorium for the multitude of Kit Fox deaths, the Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Lucas Hall was able to speak. 

“It feels really ridiculous to be doing this for an animal, but then I got thinking about that, and it’s really not,” Hall continued with tears in his eyes. “We should be crying over what is happening in our environment because if we don’t start taking action to make change today we’re not going to have anything in the future.” 

Hall concluded his message to the individuals at the vigil by recalling the memory of the Kit Fox named “11,” and he called for the student body to continue fighting for the biodiversity of CSUB’s campus.

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