The swift fox is now endangered in 90% of its historical habitat range. The reasons for the disappearance of swift foxes in both Canada and the U.S. are uncertain, but strychnine-poisoning, intensive trapping (in the past), and habitat destruction are thought to be the primary causes.
In 1973, a captive breeding program for swift foxes began in Cochrane, Alberta. The captive breeding program for these foxes, supported by Wildlife Preservation Trust of Canada (WPTC), has been very successful.
With a well-established breeding program, swift fox releases began in 1983. The Swift Fox Recovery Team decided to begin in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan in an effort to reintroduce this species to its native Canadian habitat. Since 1983, over 800 swift foxes have been released. By 1991, about 250 of the released foxes had survived. Following two harsh winters and an apparent doubling of coyote numbers, present estimates of the swift fox population have dropped to 120-150.
Swift foxes once got most of their food by scavenging wolf and bear kills. As wolves and grizzly bears have disappeared from the Canadian plains, coyotes have taken their place. This has put the swift fox in competition with the coyote. Because the coyote is a much larger animal, it will usually win the fight and kill the fox.