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Swift fox kits born at Endangered Wolf Center

A litter of three swift foxes, two females and one male, has been born at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka – the first in a dozen years. The four-week-old foxes will get their first round of vaccinations today.

The kits are being raised by a trio of adult foxes – the breeding female’s sister is helping the parents care for their young.

The Endangered Wolf Center’s director of animal care and conservation, Regina Mossotti, says breeding trios are common in the wild but are rarely seen in captivity.

And she says the male’s behavior towards the females has changed dramatically since he became a father.

“Before they bred, he would actually steal their dinner sometimes. Maybe not the nicest boyfriend,” Mossotti said. “But once she became pregnant he would actually gather all the food and bring it to her. And once she had the puppies in the den, he would actually gather all the food and drop it in the den door for her.”

Swift foxes are light brown in color. And they’re small: the adults are only about 5 pounds – the average housecat weighs about 15 pounds. “And then the pups are very tiny,” Mossotti said. “At a few days old, all three of them could fit in one hand.”

Mossotti describes the foxes as elusive. They’re nocturnal and live in underground in dens year-round for shelter and to avoid predators. She says they’re great diggers, and very good hunters.

“They’re very good for ranchers to have on their land, because they take care of the rodent populations,” Mossotti said.

Mossotti says swift foxes are native to the Great Plains, ranging from southern Texas up into Canada. She says they had been eradicated from all but about 10 percent of their historic range, but are now back on about 40 percent.

The public can see the Endangered Wolf Center’s newest foxes, along with their wolves and African wild dogs. Tours start up again this Sunday and will be available by appointment every weekend.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUscience