Wildlife Preservation Canada began working with the swift fox in the mid-1990s, when we helped establish a small, self-sustaining population in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Four years later, those reintroduced foxes had tripled in number, making this one of the most successful endangered species reintroduction programs in the world.
Smaller than your typical housecat, the swift fox is one of the tiniest foxes in the world. It weights in at just 2.5 kilograms and measures about 30 centimetres high at the shoulder. Named for its speed, the swift fox can reach 60 kilometres per hour — a big advantage for escaping predators! This nocturnal animal isn’t picky, feeding on everything from insects and grass to reptiles and the carcasses of small mammals. Swift foxes form lasting pair bonds with one mate, and both male and female raise their young.
Swift foxes spend more time underground than any other species in the dog family, which makes their dens very important to their survival. You’ll often find them living in abandoned badger holes. Aboveground, swift foxes prefer prairie grasslands that offer open, unobstructed views.
Swift foxes were once found from the grasslands in Manitoba to the foothills of Alberta and south through the central plains states to Mexico. However, they are now endangered in 90 per cent of their historic range. In Canada, they disappeared from the wild in the 1930s. Thanks to reintroductions, however, there are now several hundred swift foxes in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.
In the early 1900s, loss of habitat gutted the Canadian population. The main culprits included agriculture and ranching. Swift foxes also faced intensive trapping and inadvertent poisoning as a result of efforts to kill prairie dogs, ground squirrels, wolves and coyotes. Today swift foxes still face habitat fragmentation and poisoning, along with predation by coyotes, badgers and eagles. Meanwhile, the populations of prairie dogs and ground squirrels they feed on are shrinking.
Recommended Recovery Actions
The federal Recovery Strategy for the swift fox includes conserving habitat, protecting den sites, determining whether more reintroductions or translocations are required and investigating the impact of competition from red foxes.
What We Are Doing
Find out what Wildlife Preservation Canada has done to help Canadian mammals including the swift fox, and how you can make a difference.