September 8, 2014 | by Mark McDonald
Swift Fox Is More Than Fast

Species Adapts to Varied Menu Items

By Russell Graves
Field Correspondent, sportsandoutdoors.guru

While family units establish their own territories, they often overlap with other fox family units. Males often change territories while female territories are often established and unchanged, centered around a series of burrows they use as shelter.

Rarely seen in Texas, except for the Panhandle, the Swift fox is known to reach top speeds of 20-plus mph for short sprints. (photos by the author)

Rarely seen in Texas, except for the Panhandle, the Swift fox is known to reach top speeds of 20-plus mph for short sprints. (photos by the author)

Since the canines are small, their burrows aren’t all that big. In fact, they often adopt the abandoned burrows of other animals and rely heavily upon them for protection from other predators and from the elements. The dens have a keyhole shaped entrance that’s about eight inches in diameter and the dirt is typically spread away from the entrance and not raked in a pile. Their hole extends some 6-12 feet into the ground and during the year, may use multiple burrows within their home range as they move around in search of more prey.

The daytime sighting was especially unusual as swift foxes are primarily nocturnal. They spend their days in their underground dens and emerge at night to hunt for small animals and bugs.

From a dietary standpoint, swift foxes are purely opportunistic – relying on seasonal foods. Summer finds them eating a large amount of insects like grasshoppers. In winter, their diet shifts to rodents, small birds, and carrion.

Biologist W.L. Cutter surveyed the swift fox extensively in the 1950 and documented the variability of their diet. He discovered after examining 12 stomachs and 250 dropping samples that their primary diet consists of cottontails and jackrabbits while other rodents, lizards, and small birds made up the balance. He found no evidence of game birds or poultry in their diet. In all, vertebrates made up about eighty percent of the foods found. The remaining twenty percent of their diet consisted of bugs and grass.

From where we found the den of foxes, there is no doubt that they dined on a steady diet of prairie dogs. Their den is smack in the middle of the town. By all accounts the fox are doing well because they look well fed and their coats are sleek.

Adaptable, the Swift fox preys on everything from bugs to bunnies. He’s not as hard on chickens as fable would have us believe, studies show.

Adaptable, the Swift fox preys on everything from bugs to bunnies. He’s not as hard on chickens as fable would have us believe, studies show.

When I called to this Swift fox, I was in for a surprise. Being a predator, I suspect my squeaking sounded enough like a small rodent that the male couldn’t pass up the possibility of an easy meal. What I can’t explain is why he came so close to the truck. Perhaps he’d never seen a vehicle before.

After all, people are scarce in this part of Texas and the swift fox are even more rare. Considering their three to five year life span, chances are that he came over as much out of curiosity as he did out of hunger.

While I’ll never know the exact reason, I do know that I’m glad he paid me a visit.

RGravesCheck out www.russellgraves.com for top-notch photography, outdoor articles, videos, and more. On Facebook @ russellgraves.com

 

 

 

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