Found primarily in the U.S. Great Plains region, the swift fox lives as far north as Canada, demonstrating how well-adapted he is to different environments. Though he is the smallest North American species of wild dog, his impressive speed and typical habits give him the ability to successfully evade predation, build a home and adjust his lifestyle according to available resources.
This creature takes his name from his signature speed, which gives him an edge in his environment. The swift fox can reach speeds of about 31 miles per hour, enabling him not only to catch prey, but to escape predators. Because his running speed is most advantageous adaptation for hunting, he hunts primarily at night, when it is cooler and he won't easily overheat with strenuous exercise. If he goes out during the day, it's only to sun himself, and only during the winter.
To avoid predation, the swift fox has adapted to living underground. He digs and creates an underground home called a burrow, which can be about 13 feet deep. This cunning creature builds several entrances into the burrow, so that he can come and go without being cornered by any predators. This underground den is where he spends about half of his day, avoiding potential threats and the harsh Great Plains sun until he can more safely hunt at night. When he hunts, he does not stray particularly far from his den, in case he needs to scurry back to its safety.
While he lives primarily in the U.S., the swift fox has historically lived in Western Canada as well. He prefers open desert and short-or-mixed-grass prairies and generally avoids areas of dense vegetation. He can adapt to living in cropland habitats, like wheat fields and ranch areas. He can survive high on a hilltop as easily as he does down in a valley, so long as there is room for him to dig his burrow without being exposed to environmental threats like flooding.
When it comes to food, the swift fox is highly adaptable, and generally takes what he can get. This includes hunting for prey like small mammals and reptiles as well as scavenging for dead animals, called carrion. The mammals he hunts are generally rodents or rabbits, but he can also hunt for fish and forage for eggs. He may even feast on insects, or foods like fruits, berries, grains, nuts and seeds. This highly-adaptable diet is what helps him survive in variety of environments without having to expand his range or migrate.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.