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Swift Fox Fact File

Vulpes velox

Credit: Public Domain

Weight

1.8-3kg

(4-6.5lbs)

Length

38-53cm

(12.5-21in)

Lifespan

Wild 16 years

Captive 16 years

Diet

Carnivore

Small Animals, Insects

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

Not Quite Swift Enough!

The swift fox is named for the high speeds at which they can move. They will reach speeds of up to 50km/h (30mph) when hunting or looking to avoid a predator.

Unfortunately despite their high speeds the species has still seen significant declines in its population over history. The species faced extinction in Canada but has since been reintroduced there.

Females and males remain together for life and will work together to care for their young.

They are carnivores which hunt for small animals, eggs and insects. During winter some of their food is placed under the snow so they can return to it later.

Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.

Appearance

What does the Swift Fox look like?

Across their body the swift fox has a coat of light grey or tan fur. Their upper parts have a greyish tinge. A white patch is present on the throat and chest.

At the end of the body is a tail which adds between 18 and 26cm (7 and 10in) to their length. This is bushy and has a black colored tip.

The swift fox measures an average 38-53cm (12.5-21in) long with a weight of between 1.8 and 3kg (4-6.5lbs). They stand 30cm (12in) tall.

Males tend to be larger than females.

Adaptations

How does the Swift Fox survive in its habitat?


Their coat length varies during the year. During summer they have a shorter coat to prevent overheating.

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Diet

What does the Swift Fox eat?

The swift fox is primarily carnivorous. Most of their diet is focused on small animals such as rodents, birds, eggs and prairie dogs. Some insects and plants are also consumed mostly during summer. Carrion is also consumed.

During winter this species will place excess food under snow so they can return to it later.

Learn more about the Swift Fox in this video from Nebraska Public Media on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Swift Fox?

North America is the native home of the swift fox. Here they can be found in the United States. They were driven to extinction in Canada but have since been reintroduced here.

Habitat

Where can the Swift Fox survive?

These animals are found in grassland habitats such as the prairie. In some areas they have been seen to live alongside humans in fallow cropping fields.

They will seek shelter in a den which they dig about 1m (3ft) in to the ground. These tunnel systems can reach up to 4m (13ft) long. Instead of digging their own tunnel they may make use of a badger den.

The burrow is often situated on a hill top. Multiple burrows may be used throughout the course of the year.

Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)

Credit: Public Domain

Reproduction

How does the Swift Fox produce its young?

Breeding takes place from December to January. It tends to fall slightly later in the north of their range.

Pairs form a lasting partnership and will assist one another with raising cubs.

Gestation takes 50-60 days. At birth the young have their eyes and ears closed.

Females will give birth to between two and six young in each litter. These pups spend the first month of their life in a den. Young are weaned after 46 days.

While they are being raised the parents will regularly move their den. This helps prevent the affects of mange mites.

Sexual maturity is reached between two and four years old.

Behavior

What does the Swift Fox do during its day?

These foxes can reach speeds of up to 50km/h (30mph).

They are active by night when they will emerge to seek out prey.

Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What stops the Swift Fox from surviving and thriving?

Natural predators of the swift fox include coyotes, badgers, bobcats and birds of prey.

Numbers of the swift fox saw significant declines during the early 1900s. In Canada the last sighting of the species was made in 1928. A recovery began in 1950 and has since seen their population become stable.

In Canada reintroductions have been made which have allowed a population to once again establish there.

The largest threat remaining for the species is the conversion of prairie in to croplands. This has a major affect on their survival as they have not shown an ability to survive in other habitat types.

They are also impacted by hunting, poisoning and trapping.

In the past this species was hunted for its fur. In many US states and Canada as a whole the species is now offered legal protection though hunting does occur in some states.

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Quick facts

The swift fox was previously considered a subspecies of the kit fox but has recently been elevated to a full species.

Their name is taken from the high speeds at which they can run.

Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)

Credit: en:User:Cburnett, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Tpwd.texas.gov. 2022. Swift Fox (Vulpes velox). [online] Available at: <https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/kitfox/> [Accessed 20 January 2022].

Natureconservancy.ca. 2022. Swift fox. [online] Available at: <https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/featured-species/mammals/swift-fox.html> [Accessed 20 January 2022].

American Prairie. 2022. Swift Fox. [online] Available at: <https://www.americanprairie.org/at-risk/swift-fox> [Accessed 20 January 2022].

Wildlife Preservation Canada. 2022. Swift fox (Vulpes velox). [online] Available at: <https://wildlifepreservation.ca/swift-fox/> [Accessed 20 January 2022].

Fieldguide.mt.gov. 2022. Swift Fox – Montana Field Guide. [online] Available at: <https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=AMAJA03030> [Accessed 20 January 2022].

Fieldguide.mt.gov. 2022. Swift Fox – Montana Field Guide. [online] Available at: <https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=AMAJA03030> [Accessed 20 January 2022].

Moehrenschlager, A. & Sovada, M. 2016. Vulpes veloxThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T23059A57629306. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T23059A57629306.en. Accessed on 20 January 2022.

Genomics.senescence.info. 2022. Swift fox (Vulpes velox) longevity, ageing, and life history. [online] Available at: <https://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Vulpes_velox> [Accessed 20 January 2022].

Shubenacadie Wildfile Park. 2022. Swift Fox. [online] Available at: <https://wildlifepark.novascotia.ca/animals/swift-fox.asp> [Accessed 20 January 2022].

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