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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Mammal    Species Name:
Vulpes velox
Original name, or synonym is Canis velox Say, 1823.

Common Name:
Swift Fox or Kit Fox


Great Falls, Montana   July 6, 1805

The smallest fox

Around the Great Falls of the Missouri in present day Montana, Lewis described a number of birds and mammals.  One of these is the swift, or kit fox, the smallest of the North American wild dogs.  Ranging from Canada to Mexico at the time of Lewis and Clark, today this fox is rare or extinct over the northern half of its range.  Retracing the Lewis and Clark trail today, one would not likely find these mammals.

They typically live in family groups, and den in burrows clustered together and connected by spiralling tunnels.  Active during nightime, these foxes hunt rabbits, hares, and rodents.  As coyotes fall prey to their larger relative the wolf, so is the smaller swift fox killed by coyotes.

Lewis was convinced he could distinguish swift from kit foxes.  But even today scientists disagree on whether these foxes represent one species, or two distinct ones.  DNA evidence separates them, yet they are known to mate in the wild.  Given the conflicting evidence, differences in interpretation are expected.

For more information about this North American mammal, click here.

Journal Entries:

Capt. Lewis did describe one fox that has been determined not to be a red fox variant.
Capt. Lewis, July 6, 1805--There ...  more>>

References Say, Thomas, Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819 and 1820, By Order of The Hon. J. C. Calhoun, Sec'y of War: Under the Command of Major Stephen H. Long, from the Notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and Other Gentlemen of the Exploring Party (Edwin James, author), Philadelphia, two volumes, 1823

see following caption

See following caption
swift fox

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