The Swift Fox (Vulpes velox) is a small orange-tan fox around the size of a domestic cat found in the western grasslands of North America, such as Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. It also lives in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada, where it was previously extinct.
The Swift Fox lives primarily in short-grass prairies and deserts. Due to predator control programs in the 1930s, it was considered extinct in Canada for some time, but reintroduction programs have been successful in reintroducing the species. Due to stable populations elsewhere, the species is considered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) to be of Least Concern.
Like most canids, the Swift Fox is an omnivore, and its diet includes grasses and fruits as well as small mammals, carrion, and insects. In the wild, its lifespan is three to six years, and it breeds once annually, from late December to March, depending on the geographic region. Pups are born anywhere from March to mid-May, and are weaned at six to seven weeks old.
The Swift Fox resides primariliy in deserts and short-grass prairies. They form their dens in sandy soil on open prairies, in plowed fields, or along fences. It is native to the Great Plains region of North America, and its range extends north to the central part of Alberta, Canada, and south to Texas. It reaches from western Iowa to Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana.
The Swift Fox was once a severely endangered species, due to predator control programs in the 1930s that were aimed mostly at the Gray Wolf and the Coyote. The species was extirpated from Canada by 1938, but a reintroduction program started in 1983 has been successful in establishing small populations in southeast Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan, despite the fact that many reintroduced individuals do not survive their first year. In May 1999, the Canadian Species at Risk Act listed the Swift Fox as an endangered species in Canada.
Exact population numbers of the Swift Fox are unknown, but it is known that they currently inhabit only 40% of their historic range. In addition to its populations in Canada, there are also swift fox populations in the United States, ranging from South Dakota to Texas. In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the fox warranted an endangered listing, but other higher priority species precluded its listing. This prompted state wildlife agencies within the fox's range to create the Swift Fox Conservation Team, which worked to implement better Swift Fox management and monitoring programs. Populations in the United States are stable in the central part of its range, and it is not considered endangered in the United States. The IUCN Red List characterizes it as of Least Concern.
For more information (background, pictures, experiments and references): The Swift Fox
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