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Swift Fox at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Click to see more.

Swift Fox

Vulpes velox

Family

Canidae, the dog family.

Conservation Status

Least Concern, IUCN.

Distribution

Western North America

Habitat

Short grass and mixed grass prairie

Factoid

Dens can get very complex with up to 24 “entrances”, although most have only two to seven.

The Swift fox is strictly a prairie species, but shares many characteristics with its desert cousin, the Kit fox, Vulpes macrotis. Unlike other North American foxes, both species use burrows year round, not just for raising young. This behavior is an adaptation for conserving water in the arid environment of deserts and prairies. Both species spend the entire day inside the burrow when the above ground temperatures are at their highest and the air the driest. The burrow environment is many degrees cooler and much more humid then the above ground during the day. A hot fox would need to pant to keep cool, thus using valuable water just to keep cool. At night both species are active pursuing their preferred prey of rodents and rabbits when the external temperatures are lower, the humidity is higher, and their prey most active. Both the Swift fox and the Kit fox can live in environments where there is no free water getting all of their water needs from the bodies of their prey. A ground squirrel’s body is 70% water.

Some populations are rare or extirpated due to habitat loss, and predator and rodent control programs.

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