Swift fox facts
The swift fox is a very small fox weighing only 4 to 6 pounds. The species received its common name from early Western settlers because of its speed and agility.
Considered the smallest of North America’s wild canids, the swift fox is not much larger than the average house cat. It is a buff-colored fox with light tan to white on its throat, chest, and belly. Its muzzle is dark gray to black on either side, as is the base and tip of its tail.
Primarily a nocturnal predator, the swift fox hunts almost continuously from dusk to dawn. It primarily consumes small mammals such as rats, mice, squirrels and rabbits, but its diet also includes birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and vegetation.
Swift foxes in the wild
Historically, the swift fox’s range extended from central Alberta, Canada, southward through the Great Plains to west-central Texas. By 1978, the species was declared extirpated in Canada, and by 1990, it was gone from 90 percent of its historic U.S. range.
In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that listing the swift fox as endangered was warranted, but that designation was precluded by a backlog of other higher-priority species.
In lieu of current federal protection, state and other agencies within the historic range of the swift fox formed the Swift Fox Conservation Team to prevent further decline.
Due to the Swift Fox Conservation Team efforts in swift fox monitoring, management and research, as well as reintroductions in Canada and parts of the United States, the little foxes began to make a comeback. By 1998, the swift fox was downgraded to endangered in Canada. In the United States, the swift fox returned to over 40 percent of its historic range. In 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the species from consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act. This little fox’s recovery continues to be a unique collaborative effort and a tremendous success story.
The swift foxes in our care
The swift fox enclosure remains a popular stop during tours. The female fox, Peggy, arrived here on Jan. 22, 2012 with her sister, Martha. The Species Survival Plan wanted another breeding pair and the Center had space so we received a male fox, Ernie, on Nov. 22, 2010. Peggy and the male were the first pair that bred in captivity in a trio situation, meaning two females and a male.
One male kit and two female kits were born in the spring of 2012.
In January 2013, Martha was transferred to Bismark, North Dakota, for a chance to breed with a male. Lika, a female kit, went to the Hutchinson Zoo for a chance to breed. Kimi, the second female kit, went to the Cochrane Ecological Institute in Canada for a chance to breed. Her offspring will have a chance to go back out in the wild in Canada.
On May 8, 2013, four more kits were born to Peggy and Ernie. Big brother Havoc has assisted in the raising of the kits.
Peggy and her kits can be seen on many of our tours, and are always a popular stop with their playfulness.
Springtime always brings new hope for more kits to be born, so be sure to check in during puppy and kit season.