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Swift Foxes Swiftly Spreading Into Western Wyoming

USFWS Mountain Prairie

The elusive swift fox is gaining in numbers on the western half of the state, according to recent surveys by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

Swift foxes and are much smaller than the red fox and hunt small mammals on the prairie, usually at night. That’s why wildlife biologists have been surprised to hear more reports of the animal closer to the mountains. Non-game biologist Nichole Bjornlie said they’ve been seen as far west as Lander.

“We’re coupling with the Wind River Indian Reservation and they’ve actually picked up some swift foxes there as well, which they don’t have any records of swift fox up until the past two or three years out on the reservation,” Bjornlie said.

Bjornlie says, for some reason, the species has long done well in Wyoming and Colorado but was almost wiped out in Montana and Canada. Bjornlie says it was even considered for endangered species protections.

“Some of those mechanisms still are not quite understood,” she said. “So Wyoming seems to be doing so well and Colorado also seems to have very robust populations, but some of our neighboring states don’t, is something that we’re hoping we can figure out. But we just don’t have all those answers yet.”

In the past, Wyoming has helped with recovery efforts by translocating swift foxes from here. Bjornlie said it would help for the public to report sightings of swift foxes and especially their dens. She said they often build them near highways, and that’s why their greatest cause of death is getting hit by cars.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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