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Swift Fox

Once common throughout the short and mixed-grass prairie regions, the Swift Fox (Vulpes velox), suffered dramatic range-wide declines in population during the late 1800s and early 1900s. In Canada, the species disappeared from historic range in the early twentieth century and has been listed as extirpated (removed) since 1978. Although severe declines have also occurred in the United States, the Swift Fox is not listed as endangered at the federal level in that country. Reintroduction efforts in the Canadian prairies over the past 14 years have resulted in the establishment of small populations in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Currently the Swift Fox is designated as endangered under the Alberta Wildlife Act.

Swift Foxes usually prefer short or mixedgrass prairie with flat to gently rolling terrain and sparse vegetation which allow for good mobility and visibility. Native grasses and bushes such as blue gramma, spear grass, fescue and pasture sage are the dominant vegetation in these areas. In Wyoming, prairie/sagebrush habitat is also highly utilized by the Swift Fox. Coulees, brushy areas and cultivated lands are usually avoided, although Swift Foxes have been observed near settlements and agricultural lands.

Mainly hunting at night, Swift Foxes feed on a variety of prey including mammals, grasshoppers and beetles, vegetation and small birds. Fish, amphibians and reptiles may also be included in the Swift Fox diet.

Swift Foxes appear to be monogamous however examples of possible polygamy (having more than one mate) or presence of a "helper" individual have been recorded. Breeding usually begins in the second year, although yearling females have been documented with pups. The breeding season starts in mid-February, and foxes reintroduced to Alberta and Saskatchewan have produced pups from late April to early May. Litter size of reintroduced animals has ranged from one to seven pups, with an average litter size of 3.9.

Predation was the principal cause of death and accounted for 58 % of known deaths for 89 of the Swift Foxes released between 1987 and 1991 on the Canadian prairies. Coyotes are the main predators and will often kill, but not consume the much smaller Swift Fox in what appears to be interspecific competition between the two species. Other predators include the Badger, Golden Eagle and Bobcat. Human induced deaths, due to road kills, hunting or trapping, also occur to a lesser extent.

To learn about other species at risk in Alberta click here.

Swift Fox

Swift Fox