Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
This presentation compares and contrasts the experiences of a number of hand-raised swift fox (Vulpes velox) and their human handlers, and the reasons for hand-rearing. Areas covered include growth and development, hand-feeding diets, age when removed from the natal den, effects of removal on fox parents and litter mates, predatory and foraging success, breeding and parenting hazards, relationships to humans and house pets, and general observations. Special attention is given to diets and their effects on growth rates and on recognition of different food sources and prey. The latter was of special concern to the program to reestablish the swift fox on the Canadian prairie.
A total of eight swift foxes were reared with some degree of human involvement during the time frame of 1985 through 1989. Five of these foxes were completely habituated to humans and their environments, two were nursed by a domestic cat, and one was taken from his family at a more advanced state. Of these animals, the kits that were removed at the youngest ages adapted best to human environments while the kits removed at older ages accepted people only reluctantly. Even then the kits had a clear and positive relationship only to the humans or animals they knew, and were essentially wild to anyone else.