The Royal Canadian Mint is minting collectable coins to raise awareness about endangered Canadian species through its Conservation Stories series of specimen coin sets. This year marks the third set to be released as part of this series and it features the swift fox, a species that actually went extinct in Canada at one point but was later successfully reintroduced.
How Can You Tell the Swift Fox Apart From Other Fox Species?
Canada is home to several species of foxes in addition to the swift fox, including the grey fox, arctic fox, and red fox. The swift fox looks similar to the red fox in colouration, but you can recognize it by its distinctive markings. The tip of the swift fox’s tail is black whereas on the red fox, it is more likely to be white, and the swift fox also has black markings on either side of its snout.
What may really set the swift fox apart from its canid cousins is its size. The swift fox is about the size of a housecat, making it much smaller than other types of foxes.
What Is Special About the Swift Fox?
As implied by its name, the swift fox is able to run very quickly to catch prey. They can run over 60 kilometres per hour. While swift foxes are opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever they can catch, their speed allows them to catch jackrabbits and other fleet-footed prey on occasion. To a human observer, a swift fox running at full speed may seem even faster because of its small size, but this does not help its hunting ability.
The swift fox is a nocturnal animal that hunts for food at night. During the day, it spends its time sleeping in its den. This is another way that the swift fox is different from other fox species, which mostly use dens for food storage and raising offspring rather than sleeping.
Compared to other fox species, the swift fox is more curious and less cunning. It is attracted to bait and therefore easy to lure into traps, whether intentionally or not.
What Is the History of the Swift Fox in Canada?
The swift fox is a prairie dweller. In Canada, it originally made its home in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. In the United States, it was originally found mostly in the Great Plains states, from the Dakotas all the way down to Texas. In both countries, the Rocky Mountain range marks the western boundary of the swift fox’s territory. Long grass impedes swift foxes’ ability to spot prey and move freely, so they prefer open areas of short- and mixed-grass prairie. The swift fox has traditionally served sacred functions for plains-dwelling Canadian First Nations.
The swift fox population declined dramatically during the 19th century and into the 20th, and no one is quite sure why. It was probably a combination of factors, such as loss of habitat due to farming and swift foxes being killed in traps intended for other species. By the late 1930s, swift foxes had disappeared from the wild in Canada. Fortunately, they still lived in the United States and, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, were successfully reintroduced to the Canadian plains, where their status is now considered “threatened.”
What Is Special About This Collectable Set From the Royal Canadian Mint?
The set is packaged in book-style packaging and contains all current denominations of Canadian coins, from 5 cents to 2 dollars. The one-dollar coin is the specimen coin, depicting a swift fox on the back instead of the familiar loon on circulation coins. The design is by artist Claude Thivierge and depicts the fox running across the prairie. Available from Colonial Acres Coins, this set would make a great gift for a coin collector or animal enthusiast.