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Common name: Swift fox

Scientific name: Vulpes velox

Other names: Kit fox

Identification: Head and body are 15-20 inches (38-51 cm) long plus a 9-12 inch (23-30 cm) tail that is bushy. Typically weigh 4-6 lbs. (1.8-2.7 kg). Large ears for a fox, body color is pale buffy-yellow with black spot on each side of snout. Black tail tip.

Habitat: Mixed and shortgrass prairies, open areas.

Food: Opportunistic and generalist. Diet primarily consists of rabbits, rodents (mice, prairie dogs, ground squirrels), insects, small birds and carrion.

Reproduction: Monogamous and usually pair for life. Breeding occurs January-March depending on area. Gestation is 51 days and litter sizes are 2-8 pups. Pups remain with the adults until 4-6 months of age.

Behavior: Pups can disperse 10+ miles (16 km) and once a territory is established it can vary from 6 to 19 square miles (10-30 km2). Primary predators of swift fox are coyotes, golden eagles and sometimes badgers. Roadkill is common and significant in some areas. Dens are used throughout the year. Primarily nocturnal but some daytime activity near den is observed.

Conservation status: Swift fox were common or abundant until late 1800’s and early 1900’s. They experienced a dramatic decline and were gone from several states by 1950’s. Poisoning of wolves using strychnine had negative effect on swift fox populations as well as intense trapping, modification, degradation, and loss of native grasslands. After pesticide use was regulated swift fox populations began to increase. Now they occupy a substantial portion of their range and are abundant in localized areas. Several successful reintroduction projects have occurred in Canada, Montana, South Dakota. In 1995 the US Fish & Wildlife Service found that the swift fox should be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act but it was not listed at that time. State agencies worked together to manage swift fox populations and in 2001 it was removed from threatened consideration completely. Listed as endangered in Canada under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).


Recommended resources:

The swift fox: ecology and conservation of swift foxes in a changing world. Edited by Marsha Sovada and Lu Carbyn.2003. Canadian Plains Research Center.
Mammalian Species account for swift fox by Harold J. Egoscue. 1979.

PWR Footage of Swift Fox: