Swift foxes are small creatures around the size of a domestic cat that live in North America. They have a dark, grayish, tan coloration that extends to a yellowish-tan color across their sides and legs. The throat, chest, and belly range from pale yellow to white in color. Their tail is black-tipped, and they have black patches on their muzzles. The ears are noticeably large. Males and females are similar in appearance, although males are slightly larger.
Swift foxes are native to the Great Plains region of North America, such as Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Texas. These animals live in short-grass prairies and western grassland. They form their dens in sandy soil on open prairies, in plowed fields, or along fences.
Swift foxes are social and primarily nocturnal creatures. During the summer they spend only evenings and nighttime above ground and during the day they usually stay in their dens. However, during warm middays in winter Swift foxes may spend some time above ground. They also use their dens as shelter from predators. These dens are usually underground burrows that are 2 to 4 meters in length. These small creatures are known for their remarkable speed. They may run very fast, at speeds of over 50 km/h (30 mph) or even up to 60 km/h (40 mph). Their speed helps them catch food and avoid predators.
Swift foxes are omnivores. Rabbits, mice, ground squirrels, birds, insects, and lizards are their main prey. They also feed on grasses and fruits. However, like any efficient forager, Swift foxes take advantage of seasonal foods. During the summer, adults eat large amounts of insects, including beetles and grasshoppers, and feed their young with larger prey items. Deer and other carrion killed by other animals may also be important food sources.
Swift foxes have a monogamous mating system. Adults live in pairs, and although some individuals mate for life, others choose different partners each year. Their breeding season varies with region. In the southern United States, for example, it occurs between December and February with pups born in March and early April. Females give birth to 4-5 kits after the gestation period that lasts around 51 days. Pups are born in the den and typically remain there for approximately one month. A newborn pup's eyes and ears remain closed for 10 to 15 days, leaving it dependent on the mother for food and protection during this time. It is usually weaned around 6 or 7 weeks old and remains with its parents until fall. The social organization in Swift foxes is unusual among canids as it is based on the females. Females maintain territories at all times, but males emigrate if the resident female is killed or removed. Young males become reproductively mature at one year of age, while young females usually start breeding when they are two years old.
Swift foxes suffer from the loss of their habitat due to human activities such as agriculture. They also suffer greatly from predation by coyotes, trapping and poisoning, and vehicle collisions.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Swift fox total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.
Swift foxes play an important role in the ecosystem they live in. These small creatures help control the populations of their prey, such as rabbits and rodents. They may also disperse seeds due to eating fruit.