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Swift fox

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Swift fox
800px-Living in a Prairie Dog Town (7488661228).jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Vulpes velox

687px-Vulpes velox.jpg
A four year old swift fox

The Swift fox is a species of true fox known by the scientific name Vulpes velox. They are nocturnal omnivores eating rabbits, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, berries and seeds. They are native to the Great Plains Region of North America, and also the smallest fox in North America - being not much larger then an average house cat weighing in at 5-7 lbs. They get their name from how fast they can run reaching speeds around 30mph.

Body Design

Body design of the Swift fox

Swift foxes are part of the smallest dog group in North America, the adults usually weigh less then a house cat.[2] Their small body size and strong legs allow them to move at incredible rates, reaching up to about 30 miles per hour. This allows 'Vulpes velox' to catch its prey and escape his predators.[3] Swift foxes have large ears which help regulate body temperature in the desert and prairie grasslands.[4] Their fur is a thick under coat covered with long guard hair. The fur is used to keep the swift fox warm in the cold nights and used also to insulate heat during the day. Just like arctic foxes, the swift fox have heavily pigmented eyes to protect them from the sun's glare.[5] They have blacked tipped tails that provide balance when running.[6] The swift fox like all carnivores have sharp teeth that they use to eat rodents they find.[7]

Life Cycle

Description

Breeding pairs of swift foxes usually stay together year round. Males have been also known to have more then one mate in a season. They breed is late December to early March starting a little earlier in southern regions. The range of pups that they can have is 1-8 pup's, with the average being 4 to 5. The pups average weight is 40g at birth. The eyes will open by the end of the second week, and the first time out of their den will be by the time they are a month old.[8] During the first two weeks,the male will spend most of his time out of the den to protect his family. Once the pups emerge from the den the adults spend more time above ground during the day. In August, vocal aggression, high pitch hums, and chattering is more common within the pups. They begin to hunt for grasshoppers and start leaving their family. In December, the foxes will go out of their den and lay in the snow in the sun during the day. High winds and storms keep them in their dens. [9]

Ecology

Area where swift foxes can be located

Swift foxes are native to mid and short grasslands of North America. Their numbers have dropped during the late 19th and early 20th centuries due fires, flooding, and predators. Swift foxes dig dens under the ground, to live into. As a result, drowning in a flood is a common death for such animals. If strong rain happens during their sleeping time death is a sure thing that happens.[3]

Road development in the grasslands have also increased the death rate by vehicle.Packs of coyotes are one of their main predictors hunting and killing them in their dens. Because of this, actions have been taken with the removal of coyotes in the grasslands.However, the removal of coyotes also posses a problem for the swift fox. With the coyotes gone, other species of foxes have begun to compete with the swift fox for food and resources. Landowners use illegal poisons to protect their livestock and crops that kill some swift foxes have been killed by this.[10]

Endangerment

A pack of swift foxes hunting

There are currently 400-700 swift foxes left in the world.[11] The reasons for this include predators like Wolfs, coyotes, hawks, and poison, traps, and loss of habitat. Organizations have begun to move swift foxes into Indian reservations to give them more suitable habitat to live in. This articular written by Tom Dickson stats "Canada and the United States no longer carry out large-scale predator and rodent poisoning programs."[12] The reasons for the poisons were to control the wolfs, and coyotes that would attack farmers livestock and crop. But the foxes couldn't help and have some as well.

Video

It took several trips to South Dakota's grasslands over the course of three years for photographer Michael Forsberg to build up a collection of images of the elusive swift fox. With camera traps and a lot of patience, Forsberg chronicled playful pups and their predator parents in their natural environment. He calls it the most remarkable experience of his life.

References

  1. Authorlastname, Firstname. Page-Title Publishing-site-name. Web. Date-of-publication or last-update or access (specify which).
  2. . Swift Fox Great Plains Nature Center. Web. Accessed January 7, 2015.George Potts and Bob Gress
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ryan, Tom. Adaptations of the Swift Fox Pawnation. Web. Accessed January 5, 2015.
  4. Page-Kit and Swift Foxes mynarskiforest. Accessed January 7, 2015.author unknown
  5. NA, NA. Page-Kit and Swift Foxes mynarskiforest. Web. Date-of-publication or last-update or access (specify which).
  6. NA, NA. Page-Swift Fox Survivalworld. Web. Date-of-publication or last-update or access (specify which).
  7. MissSwiftfox19. Zoo Project-Swift Fox Blogspot. Web. Date-of-publication or last update Sunday, November 7,2010 (specify which).
  8. Page-Title Mynarskiforest. Web. Accessed January 4, 2015.
  9. . Swift Fox Life History Cochrane Ecological Institute. Web. Accessed January 4, 2015.
  10. Vulpes Velox iucnredlist. Web.Accessed January 5, 2015. author unknown
  11. How many swift foxes are left answers.com. Web. Accessed January 3, 2015.author unkown
  12. Dickson, Tom. The Sift Foxes speedy recovery MToutdoors. Web. Accessed January 3, 2015.