F o x e s   &   F r i e n d s

Educational Site & Fox Rescue

Swift Fox


Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Carnivora
Family:Canidae
Genus:Vulpes
Species:V. velox
 

 Description: Swift foxes are the second smallest fox species in North America after the Kit Fox, and can be great companions. It is about 12 inches (30 cm) in height, and 31 inches (79 cm) long, measuring from the head to the tip of the tail, or about the size of a house cat. They used to be extremely common in North America, but due to prairie dog, coyote, and other traps and the fur trade, this species was once extinct in Canada, and critically endangered in the United States. With breeders and programs in zoos and wildlife facilities across America, scientists were able to reintroduce this species of fox back to the wild successfully.
 
Today, the Swift fox (sometimes referred to as the Kit fox, though they are a separate species) makes up for only 40% of its original habitat. Not much information is available on these foxes in captivity other than they were almost extinct and severely endangered. There are only a handful of owners in the United States. Remember, even though they are small foxes they can still be a handful. They will be destructive if bored, sometimes hide food, poop, and things they steal under your cushions. One individual who has one as a pet says they are greedy, sneaky, fast, and selfish, but a lot of fun. 
 
 Physical Characteristics and Native Area: The Swift Fox is known in America for its relatively small size. It is only 5 to 10 pounds on average, with the males being slightly larger. The coloration seen in a Swift fox can change, with a rusty tan color during the summers and a more grayish tan in the winter, always with a white underbelly. They have black-tipped tails and are about 12 inches tall and 32 inches long. 
 
In the wild they only survive about 4 to 5 years, however, in captivity may live up to 13 to 16 years. They are found over the mid-west United States and Southern Canada. While they are not considered endangered in the US anymore, they are in Canada. They are most often found on open prairies and plains.

Diet: Swift Foxes eat mostly rodents, insects, prairie dogs, rabbits, squirrels, birds,

reptiles, amphibians, and other small animals.
 
Sometimes Swift foxes prey upon other already-dead animals such as dead coyotes or bison.
 
In captivity, their diet should consist of a stable dry kibble with fruits, veggies, etc. mixed. As stated on the other pages, Blue Buffalo Wilderness and Taste of the Wild kibbles are excellent sources of that main base food.  
 

Concerns and Major Threats: One of the primary concerns regarding the Swift Fox is habitat loss. The conversion of prairie lands (which are imperative to their survival) into crop lands and human development severely impacts the native numbers of this fox. Prairies make the Swift Fox most comfortable, and this is necessary to encourage breeding.

Another large factor with decreased Swift Fox numbers are the poisoned bait traps meant for Coyotes who take from farmers stock. Swift Foxes get into the trap, and it lowers their numbers. 

 

Behavior: Swift foxes got their name from their speed. They are nocturnal, very vocal and non-territorial. These foxes spend more time underground in their burrows than any other canid.  Although social animals, they keep one mate throughout their lifetime. One of the main threats to the swift fox is habitat loss as a result of conversion of grasslands for agriculture and fur trade. 

In the past, they were impacted by trapping and accidental poisoning intended for wolves, coyotes, and prairie dogs. As part of federal eradication campaigns, poisoning also reduced swift fox food sources, such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels. 

Reproduction: Mating Season is December to March. Females stop producing kits after 8 years.  

Normal Gestation: Approx. 51 days

Average Litter Size: 4-5 kits 
The kits disperse from the mother in September and October. Legal Status/Protection - In the United States, the swift fox was removed from "candidate" status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)*. In Canada, they are considered to be "endangered" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and were once extinct. * The Endangered Species Act requires the US federal government to identify species threatened with extinction, identify habitat they need to survive, and help protect both.  In doing so, the Act works to ensure the basic health of our natural ecosystems and protect the legacy of conservation we leave to our children and grandchildren. **The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines the national status of wild Canadian species, subspecies, varieties or other designatable units that are suspected of being at risk of extinction or extirpation.
Normal Gestation: 51 days
Average Litter Size: 4-5 kits 
The kits disperse from the mother in September and October. Legal Status/Protection - In the United States, the swift fox was removed from "candidate" status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)*. In Canada, they are considered to be "endangered" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and were once extinct. * The Endangered Species Act requires the US federal government to identify species threatened with extinction, identify habitat they need to survive, and help protect both.  In doing so, the Act works to ensure the basic health of our natural ecosystems and protect the legacy of conservation we leave to our children and grandchildren. **The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines the national status of wild Canadian species, subspecies, varieties or other designatable units that are suspected of being at risk of extinction or extirpation.

Average Litter Size: 4-5 kits

The kits disperse from the mother in September and October. 

 

Legal Status/Protection: The Endangered Species Act requires the US federal government to identify species threatened with extinction, identify habitat they need to survive, and help aid their recovery process.

**The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines the national status of wild Canadian species, subspecies, varieties or other designated units that are suspected of being at risk of extinction or extirpation.protect both.  In doing so, the Act works to ensure the basic health of our natural ecosystems and protect the legacy of conservation we leave to our children and grandchildren.

In the United States, the swift fox was removed from "candidate" status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)*. In Canada, they are considered to be "endangered" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and were once extinct.


Subspecies Confusion: Some individuals used to believe that Kit Foxes were a subspecies of the Swift Fox, even as recent as the late 1990's. This has since been disproven, due to a number of differences within the species. Kit Foxes have much larger ears to help dissipate heat, since they live in deserts instead of the prairie land that Swifts inhabit. They are also slightly smaller than Swifts by a couple pounds, and slightly less gray. Their tails are more pointed as well.

 

Source accessed and modified 2/4/2010: defendersofwildlife.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/swift_fox.php#