U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


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Poessel, S.A. and E.M. Gese. 2013. Den attendance patterns in swift foxes during pup rearing: varying degrees of parental investment within the breeding the breeding pair. Journal of Ethology 31(2):193-201. doi: 10.1007/s10164-013-0368-y.


U.S. government work.


Parental investment varies inmammalian species, with male care of young being more common in social and monogamous species. Monogamy is commonly observed in canid species, with both males and females, and often ‘‘helper’’ individuals, providing some degree of care for the young. Social units of the swift fox (Vulpes velox), a small North American canid species, usually consist of a male– female pair and occasionally helpers. The role of parental investment and behavior in swift fox society is currently poorly understood. We observed swift fox dens during the pup-rearing season in each of 2 years to evaluate attendance and frequency of visits to natal dens by adult males and females. Female foxes remained at dens longer and visited them more frequently than didmale foxes. Female attendance and visitation decreased throughout the pup-rearing season as pups became older and more independent. Environmental factors, including climate and its effect on prey, appeared to contribute to differences in fox behavior between the 2 years. We observed only one fox outside of the breeding pair attending a den in each of the 2 years, both of which were males. We concluded that each of these two foxes were living within the social unit of the male–female pair as a trio, but not serving as a helper and contributing to the care of the pups.Our results increased knowledge of the ecology and behavior of the swift fox, a species of conservation concern in the Great Plains of North America.

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