Swift Fox (Vulpes Velox)
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The Swift Fox in its natural prairie habitat Uploaded 10/12/09


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The Swift Fox lives in the Great Plains of the United States. Uploaded 10/15/09

Natural Habitat and Location


The swift fox is an organism that is solely present in North America, mostly in the great plains. It is present in Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of southern Canada. It has been living in this prairie region for as long as has been recorded, so it is assumed that they have always been there. To put it simply, the swift fox's natural habitat is in prairies. They live there year round (not seasonal animals) in small families in dens, where they raise their young until they are old enough to fend for themselves.








Niche


The swift fox is an omnivore, with a fairly simple diet. Their diet consists primarily of rabbits, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, mice, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, berries, grasses, and seeds. Being a very small animal (about 12 inches tall and only 5-7 pounds) it does not need to consume very much food at one time.
These quick animals are mostly active at night, but also hunt during the evening and early morning.They live in dens (shallow burrows underground) with their mate and have about 4-5 pups a year. During the day, the swift fox mostly remain in their dens, presumably to protect themselves from predators. They breed from February to May, with a pregnancy lasting about 50 days. The pups then live in the den with their parents until they are old enough to fend for themselves, usually at around one month old. However, they will remain with their parents for about nine months, or until the fall.
The primary predators of the swift fox are coyotes, eagles, hawks and occasionally humans, who used to hunt to foxes for their fur. Their main competitor is the coyote, for the two organims have similar dietary needs. However, the coyote usually prevails (due to its size and strength) leaving the swift fox wounded or killed.
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Named for their speed, the swift fox must be quick to catch their food and avoid predators. Uploaded 10/15/09


Population Expansion

For many reasons, the Swift Fox would be the prime species to take over should the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog ever go extinct. Most significantly, they fill similar niches in their prairie environments. Frist off, they are located in the exact same region--the Great Plains. This means there would be no tricky movement from one environment to another to fill the niche left behind. Also, they have a very similar diet, and almost exactly the same predators. While the Swift Fox is an omnivore, and the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog is an herbivore, they still eat many of the same things, such as insects, grasses, berries, and seeds. The Swift Fox also happens to eat some small animals, including the prairie dog, so it would have to adapt somewhat after its extinction. However, it is the next trophic level in the food chain, so it is the most logical organism to take over. Additionally, both species are preyed upon by coyotes, eagles, and hawks, so the higher predators would not lose much of their food supply, hopefully leaving the food web mostly intact.
In addition to the dietary and location niche requirements, the Swift Fox and Black-Tailed Prairie Dog are quite similar in size, both ranging from 12 inches tall and about 3-7 pounds. They also both live with their families (usually up to 5 other organisms) in dens or burrows underground, and visit many others of their species because both are social animals. Lastly, they each reproduce about the same amount each year, 3-5 pups. This means that the populations are also very similar.
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Swift Fox pups venturing out of their den. Uploaded 10/15/09


Species in Competition

While the Swift Fox is the most likely candidate to take over once the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog goes extinct, it is unfortunately endangered as well. However, it has a much better chance of survival due to the fact that it has a wider dietary range, incorporating not only the limited number of plants in the prairie into their diet, but also supplementary small animals as well. While the exact population numbers of the Swift Fox are unknown, they are on the rise again after a drop in recent years. This is very different from the steadily declining Black-Tailed Prairie Dog population. Since the number of Swift Foxes isn't huge, the takeover would be a slow one, although the exctinction of the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog would provide more of some types of food for the Swift Fox.

Works Cited

Wikipedia (n.d.) Swift Fox. Retrieved October 6, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swift_Fox

Defenders of Wildlife. (n.d.). Swift Fox: Vulpes Velox. Retrieved October 5, 2009, from [[http://www.defenders.org/‌wildlife_and_habitat/‌wildlife/‌swift_fox.php]]

Williams, E. (n.d.). Swift Fox: Vulpes Velox. In The Wild Ones Animal Index. Retrieved October 5, 2009, from [[http://www.thewildones.org/‌Animals/‌swiftFox.html]]

V. Velox (Swift Fox). (n.d.). In Encyclopedia Britannica.