Fact Sheet
Swift Fox

Basic Facts About Swift Foxes

The swift fox is a small fox around the size of a domestic housecat, and is found in the western grasslands of North America, such as Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Diet

Swift foxes eat rabbits, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, mice, birds, reptiles, amphibians, berries and seeds.

Population

Swift fox population numbers in the wild are unknown, but they are found in less than 40% of their historic range.

Range

The swift fox is native to the Great Plains region of North America. Today the swift fox can be found in fragmented, smaller populations in portions of Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. Historically, their range included prairies in central North America, extending north to central Alberta, Canada, and south to central Texas, east-west from western Iowa to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

Behavior

Did You Know?

Swift foxes have been known to run at speeds of more than 30mph!

They received the name "swift" fox because of their speediness. Swift foxes are nocturnal, vocal and non-territorial. They spend more time underground in their burrows than any other canid. Although they are social animals, they keep one mate throughout their lifetime.

Reproduction

Mating Season: December to February.
Gestation: 51 days.
Litter Size: 4-5 kits.

The kits disperse in September and October.

Threats to Swift Foxes

One of the main threats to the swift fox is habitat loss as a result of conversion of grasslands for agriculture. In the past, they were impacted by trapping and incidental poisoning intended for wolves and coyotes. As part of federal eradication campaigns, poisoning also reduced swift fox food sources, such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels.

Climate change looms as an additional threat to the swift fox. According to one projection, suitable grassland habitat for the species in Colorado and New Mexico could shrink by 27% to 63% under various emissions scenarios.

What Defenders Is Doing to Help Swift Foxes

Many Indian tribes across the northern Great Plains are doing an incredible job – with few financial resources – of restoring the swift fox to tribal lands. Defenders is thrilled to help with these exciting efforts.

The Blackfeet Indian Nation and Defenders of Wildlife were the first to attempt a swift fox reintroduction effort in the United States. From 1998 to 2002, the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department and Defenders of Wildlife reintroduced 123 captive-reared swift fox to the 1.5 million-acre Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana. The effort was a success: swift foxes are now well established in this part of the Montana prairie.

The Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation in eastern Montana began reintroducing swift fox in 2006. Defenders of Wildlife provided funds for the tribal biologist to continue his important work on this project.