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Vulpes velox - Swift fox
Range:  Central United States and southcentral Canada
Size:  4 - 6.5 lb (1.8 - 3 kg)

The swift fox, (Vulpes velox), is the smallest of the North American foxes.  The full grown animal is only about the size of a domestic cat.   Aptly named for its ability to run at speeds of over 50 km/h, the swift fox is also known as the "kit" or "prairie" fox.

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The swift fox formerly ranged from south-central Canada to northwestern Texas.  There are a number of subspecies, some of which may eventually be officially classified as distinct species. The northern variety has a number of physical distinctions from that which inhabits the arid zones of the southwest.  Most notably, its coat is darker, it has a slightly broader skull, and its ears are proportionately smaller.  One subspecies, the San Joaquin kit fox of California (V. velox mutica), has become one of the most endangered, presumably due mainly to the use of poisoned baits for the control of coyotes.
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swift fox pup - Image  C. Campbell
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A seven week old pup
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San Joaquin kit foxes
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San Joaquin kit fox
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As is the case with many other foxes, the swift fox's diet consists primarily of small mammals and and insects (especially crickets).  Birds are also taken occasionally.  Although somewhat more carnivorous than the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), swift foxes will also take berries, and in the desert southwest, the fruits of cacti.  Kit foxes are nocturnal, and sleep by day in earthen dens excavated to a depth of approximately one metre.  The natural life span of the swift fox is probably 5-7 years in the wild, but as is the case with the red fox, a life of 15-20 years is ocassionally possible under captive conditions.
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swift fox pups - Image  C. Campbell
swift fox pups - Image  C. Campbell

 
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The swift fox has declined in numbers, but it does seem to be making a comeback in some regions, especially in the north-central US.  The species had all but disappeared from South Dakota, but recently, individuals have moved in from further south and begun breeding.  Additionally, the release of many captive-bred individuals appears to have aided recovery in Canada and other areas.  Vulpes velox is now protected by law.
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swift fox pup - Image  C. Campbell
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Click here:to go to the Swift Fox Gallery.

 
SWIFT FOX LINKS:

The Swift Fox -a great page on Vulpes velox with additional links.


 
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