Warning This Web page has been archived on the Web.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards, as per the Policy on Communications and Federal Identity.

Skip booklet index and go to page content

COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the swift fox (Vulpes velox) in Canada (2000)

Executive Summary: from the 1998 Status Report

Swift Fox

Vulpes Velox

The swift fox began to decline as native grasslands were converted to agricultural lands in the late 1800s.  Loss of habitat combined with predation, competition (primarily from coyotes and golden eagles), interspecific competition for food with coyotes, vulnerability to trapping, poisoning programs, drought conditions, and winter severity all likely contributed to the extirpation of the swift fox from Canada by the late 1930s.  Captive breeding in Canada began in the early1960's and continued in 1973.  This was expanded into an intensive reintroduction project involving federal agencies, universities and non-government organizations.  Swift foxes were first released into Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1983 and 1984 respectively.  By 1997, 942 foxes had been released in the two provinces.

Reintroduction efforts have been successful.  Small populations have become established in the border area of south-eastern Alberta and south-western Saskatchewan and in the Wood Mountain/Grasslands National Park Reserve region in central Saskatchewan.  Reproduction is now occurring in these wild populations, and

the majority of the current population are wild-born offspring of released animals.

The Canadian swift fox population in 1997 was estimated to be in excess of 289 foxes (95% confidence interval: 179-412 foxes).  The Alberta/Saskatchewan border population is estimated to be 192 foxes (95% confidence interval:  93-346 foxes).  The swift fox population in the Wood Mountain area is estimated to be 87 foxes.  A reliable confidence interval could not be obtained for the Wood Mountain region due to the small sample size.

Eighty per cent of the foxes captured in 1997 were born on the Canadian prairie.  Released foxes have survived and reproduced, and their offspring form the core of the fledgling Canadian population.  Observations to date suggest that some individual foxes have survived up to 7 years, and possibly longer.  Reproduction by a number of pairs in successive years has been documented.   In addition to the Canadian population, swift foxes have also been recorded in northern Montana.



The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines the national status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, and nationally significant populations that are considered to be at risk in Canada. Designations are made on all native species for the following taxonomic groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, lepidopterans, molluscs, vascular plants, lichens, and mosses.



COSEWIC comprises representatives from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal agencies (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Federal Biosystematic Partnership), three nonjurisdictional members and the co-chairs of the species specialist groups. The committee meets to consider status reports on candidate species.


Species: Any indigenous species, subspecies, variety, or geographically defined population of wild fauna and flora.

Extinct (X): A species that no longer exists.

Extirpated (XT): A species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere.

Endangered (E): A species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.

Threatened (T): A species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.

Special Concern (SC)*: A species of special concern because of characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events.

Not at Risk (NAR)**: A species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk.

Data Deficient (DD)***: A species for which there is insufficient scientific information to support status designation.

*       Formerly described as "Vulnerable" from 1990 to 1999, or "Rare" prior to 1990.
**     Formerly described as "Not In Any Category", or "No Designation Required."
***   Formerly described as "Indeterminate" from 1994 to 1999 or "ISIBD" (insufficient scientific information on which to base a designation) prior to 1994.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) was created in 1977 as a result of a recommendation at the Federal-Provincial Wildlife Conference held in 1976. It arose from the need for a single, official, scientifically sound, national listing of wildlife species at risk. In 1978, COSEWIC designated its first species and produced its first list of Canadian species at risk. Species designated at meetings of the full committee are added to the list.

Environment                               Environnement
Canada                                      Canada

Canadian Wildlife                       Service canadien
Service                                     de la faune

The Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, provides full administrative and financial support to the COSEWIC Secretariat.