Journal of Ethology

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 193–201 | Cite as

Den attendance patterns in swift foxes during pup rearing: varying degrees of parental investment within the breeding pair

  • Sharon A. PoesselEmail author
  • Eric M. Gese


Parental investment varies in mammalian 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 did male 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.


Carnivore Canid Helper Parental care Sociality Vulpes velox 



Funding and logistical support was provided by the U.S. Army, Directorate of Environmental Compliance and Management, Fort Carson, Colorado, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Assistance Office, Denver, Colorado. Additional support was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center at Utah State University, Logan, Utah. We thank E. Joyce, C. Thompson, J. White, E. Cleere, M. Watkins, D. Degeranno, A. Larkins, C. Roemer, D. Fletcher, W. Ulrey, S. Schopman, C. Gazal, A. Knipps, J. Garner, and C. Briggs for field assistance. We also thank S. Durham for statistical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildland ResourcesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.USDA/WS/National Wildlife Research Center, Department of Wildland ResourcesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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