The swift fox is North America’s smallest canid and will always hold a special place in my heart. I had the amazing opportunity of working with swift foxes on my first independent research project during my masters degree at Kansas State University. This project took me 5 hours from home every other weekend to far west Kansas where I would track foxes I had previously captured and equipped with radio collars.
Swift foxes are nocturnal and reside in dens during the day. I enjoyed my time alone in the grasslands and agricultural field of the west. I would often work for hours at night without being able to see a single light or encounter another soul in this least populated region of Kansas. This time was transformational for me.
Skip ahead 25 years and I’ve lived in the Texas Panhandle, an area ecologically similar to western Kansas, for 13 years. I am again in vast open country of shortgrass prairie but I can see extinct volcanoes in the distant west in New Mexico. Swift foxes are found here in Rita Blanca National Grassland and in the grasslands west into New Mexico. Jessie and I are here to film swift foxes at a den and I get my first good look at these tiny animals in 25 years. Smaller even than I remember but just as beautiful, the foxes spend a bit of time each morning and evening above ground around their dens.
Swift foxes have a difficult existence in the high plains and utilize dens daily to avoid environmental conditions and predators like coyotes and even golden eagles. When listening to the chorus of howling coyotes in this grassland, it is hard to imagine how these diminutive foxes can cover the ground necessary to acquire sufficient food resources, all the while avoiding coyotes that I found to be their leading cause of mortality in my study (this has been found in numerous studies).
- Ray Matlack
Somehow, this tiny prairie foxes make a living in these beautiful grasslands. We hope you enjoy the video a fraction of as much as we enjoyed filming them.