Swift foxes are mostly nocturnal when they are not raising pups. In the spring and summer, they are more active during the day, so the chances of seeing them are much higher. In fact, Fort Belknap biologist Tim Vosburgh and I had one of those special sightings in May. While touring a remote part of the reservation one afternoon, we spotted a pair of swift foxes. We were both in disbelief, as we had spent the prior week searching for litters with little luck.
We studied the pair with our binoculars. Then, fingers crossed, we quietly and safely set up two trail cameras to see if we could document any pups. We checked the cameras a few days later and were elated to see a tiny pup exploring aboveground. The photo was proof that swift foxes had successfully reproduced in this area for the first time in more than 50 years!
The pair had a litter of four pups, and they are growing quickly. In September, these wild-born pups will leave their family den site to choose new homes. Hopefully, they will go on to find mates and have their own pups next spring. As they move away from their parents, and as the reintroduced population grows over time, the foxes will become harder to track.
Swift fox home ranges are shockingly large for 5-pound animals and, along with their nocturnal nature, this makes them hard to find. That’s where scat comes in — and is our most important tool for learning about Fort Belknap’s foxes.