Mammal #71 — Swift Fox

vulpes velox

Friday, April 10, 2020 — 8:00 am

El Paso County, Colorado — Squirrel Creek Road

I got tired of being cooped up in my immediate neighborhood by the corona virus, so I got up early and headed out into the desert flats in the eastern half of El Paso County. I drove out Squirrel Creek Road and stopped by the prairie dog town that has been reliable for Burrowing Owls. I saw six owls there today, but my attention was immediately drawn to a pair of Swift Foxes that were hanging about the mouth of their burrow maybe 60 yards from the road.

During the 20 minutes I watched, they never moved more than a few feet from their burrow. They were actively relaxing—lying down, sitting up, walking around, going in and out of the burrow. They looked my way from time to time, but didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence.

Swift Foxes are tiny, about 12 inches tall and 30 inches long from the tip of the nose to the top of the tail. That’s about the size of a large house cat. I thought they actually looked cat-like at times. They’re nocturnal, but obviously you can also see them if you get out early in the morning. They’re called Swift Foxes because they can run up to 30 mph. They nest in abandoned badger or prairie dog holes. Swift Foxes eat small animals, birds, insects, and fruit and nuts. The identifying marks, apart from size and habitat, are the black tail tip and black patches on the sides of the muzzle.

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