Southwest Wildlife Discovery Series: The Tiny Kit Fox — A True Desert Fox

By Marcia Sawyer, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center docent

Maybe you have seen this little fox running through the desert at dusk — if so, consider yourself lucky indeed. Although the kit fox is not strictly nocturnal, it usually comes out of its den at dusk to hunt for food and therefore isn’t seen very often.

The relatively shy but curious kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) is the second smallest canid in the world (the Fennec fox from Africa being the smallest), weighing only 4–5 pounds as an adult and growing to 12 inches in height. These foxes can be found in desert areas from southern Oregon south into Mexico, preferring mostly flat, sparsely vegetated areas for their homes.

With its long bushy, black-tipped tail and large ears, the kit fox is well-adapted to the low desert areas it inhabits. Those large ears, which allow them to hear prey that is underground, serve another useful purpose as well. Their ears help the kit fox dissipate heat to keep it cool. Its mottled gray, white and tan color helps it blend in with its surroundings. Kit foxes even have extra fur on their paws and between their toes — yet another dual-purpose characteristic. That extra fur protects their paws from the hot desert ground and helps muffle the sound of their footsteps while they are hunting. Amazingly, the kit fox does not need water to survive. Although it will occasionally drink water if available, the kit fox gets most of its hydration from the food that it eats! What a perfect desert specimen!

So, what does a kit fox like best when it is dining? Leaving its cool den to hunt in the evening, its favorite food is the kangaroo rat, but it also eats rabbits, pack rats and other mice, lizards, small birds and even plants and seeds.

The kit fox has a range of a few miles. Not content with a single home however, it will have several dens within that range. The entrances are narrow (to keep coyotes out) and there are multiple entrances and exits to each den. Tunnels within their dens can be 9–18 feet long! The kit fox rotates between its dens, both to get away from fleas and to keep coyotes from finding them easily.

Kit foxes are solitary except during mating and while raising their families. Babies are born in April and May, with dad bringing food for mom in the den while she nurses the newborns. By 5 months of age, the babies are ready to go out on their own, find their own areas and dig their own dens and start the life cycle all over.

While it may be pure luck to see a kit fox in the wild, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale has some resident kit foxes who would love it if you came to visit. Make your plans by registering for a tour at

Photos courtesy of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Southwest Wildlife Discovery Series: It is Baby Season!

From ‘Living with Wildlife’ by Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

This time of year, baby animals are busy frolicking, foraging and exploring in their exciting new world! It is enjoyable to see these youngsters in the wild, but it is very important that we do not approach, touch or handle them. Imprinting is when a young animal realizes what kind of animal it is, and what behaviors are typical for its species. Normally, baby animals imprint onto a parent and learn to act just like that parent at a very young age.

When humans pick up baby animals, we drastically change their lives. Most animals that are handled frequently by people at an early age become imprinted on humans. This means that the animal no longer sees itself as a wild animal, but as a human! These animals won’t know how to act as the wild animal they actually are and are incapable of surviving in the wild.

Being dependent on people does not mean the animal will make a good pet. First, it is illegal in Arizona to have a wild animal as a pet (without a permit). Second, imprinted wild animals are not domesticated like a dog or cat. They are still wild animals and belong in the wild! They want to roam and be free, not kept in an enclosure or cage for the entirety of their lives.

So, if you happen to find an orphaned, injured or displaced wild animal, do not touch him/her. The mother is nearby and will continue to care for the baby. If the animal is in fact orphaned or hurt, then call Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) or another wildlife rescue organization in your area.

When we, at SWCC, are handling baby animals, we take certain precautions to prevent the baby from becoming imprinted on us. This includes not talking around the animal unless we are doing an exam on it and playing recordings of its own species, so it relates to the animal that it actually is! We want the animal to imprint on its own species, not a human!

Just as the definition suggests, “to fix indelibly or permanently,” imprinting is permanent and cannot be undone. So, we must be very careful to make sure that when a wild animal imprints, it imprints on its mother or father.

To find out more about our rehabilitated and released wildlife, sign up for our Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center newsletter at and watch for our new “Walk with Wildlife at Home” video series. When possible, visit us in person and don’t hesitate to call us at 480.471.9109 if you see a baby animal in need of help.

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center Remains Open for Wildlife Emergencies, Orphaned Animals

The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) will remain open for wildlife emergencies and orphaned animals during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Scottsdale wildlife refuge is closed to the public and its annual fundraiser and other spring events have been canceled to protect public health in response to the virus.

The following statement was issued from Southwest Conservation Center founder and executive director Linda Searles on current operations:

“SWCC veterinary hospital will remain open 24/7 for orphans and wildlife emergencies during the Coronavirus pandemic. Our animal care staff will remain working on site, continuing to provide the highest quality wildlife care. The SWCC medical team will also be on duty for medical emergencies and to care for orphans.

As is always the case, many of our volunteers will be here every day to help support our animal care staff. We are dedicated to our wildlife and will continue to be here for them. If you have a wildlife emergency, please call 480.433.5656. SWCC will continue to receive emergency wildlife drop offs at our facility, but please call first if you can.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center has closed our Center to the public and cancelled our annual fundraiser, as well as all remaining spring events, in an effort to protect the health and well-being of our visitors, volunteers, and staff.

 Our hearts and prayers are with you. Please keep safe and take care of yourselves. We are strong and will get through this together.”

The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is home to approximately 350 wild animals including foxes, porcupines, coyotes, bobcats, owls, bears, hawks, raccoons and mountain lions. The nonprofit wildlife refuge is located near 156th Street and Rio Verde Drive in Scottsdale. Throughout the year, Southwest Wildlife rescues and rehabilitates native wild animals always with the goal to release the animals back into the wild, whenever possible.

Established in 1994, the SWCC rescues and rehabilitates wildlife that has been injured, displaced, and orphaned. Once rehabilitated, they are returned to the wild. Sanctuary is provided to animals that cannot be released back to the wild. Educational and humane scientific research opportunities are offered in the field of conservation medicine. Wildlife education includes advice on living with wildlife and the importance of native wildlife to healthy ecosystems. For more information or to donate go to

Southwest Wildlife Discovery Series: The Beautiful, Essential, Resilient Bobcat

— By Kelly Marcum Hayes, Natural Resource Coordinator, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

The North American bobcat, Lynx rufus, is one of the most durable and adaptable wildcats in the country. They play an important role in the delicate balance of many different ecosystems and are one of the most beautiful animals in the Sonoran Desert.

This small feline survives quite well in desert dwellings as well as mountain woodlands, coniferous forests and swamplands. Bobcats are distinguished by their short black ear tufts, a mottled or spotted coat, a ruff of longer fur around their face, black and white markings on the back of the ears, and, of course, a shortened or “bobbed” tail.

The exact appearance of the bobcat depends on the specific habitat as variation in coat colors allow the individual to remain as camouflaged as possible in its surroundings. This wildcat has the greatest range of all North American felines, adapting reasonably well to urban sprawl.

Because of this, more people are noticing these intelligent animals in neighborhoods, parks, hiking trails and back yards!

If you see a bobcat near your home, there is no need to panic. Bobcats rarely attack people. They may be attracted to a yard that has abundant wildlife, birds, water, shade or other shelter. Shelter for bobcats can include rooftops, attics and the space underneath decks.

Bobcats are generally seen alone, but groups can exist of mating pairs, siblings or mothers with kittens. Bobcats mate from February to March producing an average litter size of two to three kittens, born from April to early June. Kittens will stay with their mother for seven to 12 months. This is the most vulnerable time for them, especially when they live in close proximity to people. When the mother bobcat leaves her kittens to go hunt, they may be seen as “abandoned” by well-meaning people who find them alone in their patio area, or even on their roof. In an attempt to “help,” people gather them and attempt to feed them and often can’t resist touching them. This is the beginning of “habituation” or even “imprinting,” and often prevents the release of the cat back into the wild.

When this happens, they must be rescued and evaluated by a Wildlife Conservation Center. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center has been rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured and orphaned wildlife since 1994. Located in far North Scottsdale, they address the needs of over 270 animals each year that are in need of help to survive back in the wild. Those who cannot, remain at the sanctuary where they live out the rest of their years.

Visit the sanctuary to meet the animals and learn more about how to keep our wildlife wild. Tours are Tuesday through Saturday by appointment only. Find out more at

Photos courtesy of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.

Southwest Wildlife Discovery Series: ‘Creeping’ Around in the Desert

— By Diane A. Vaszily, Volunteer docent, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Who are the creepers of the desert? It may help to know that creeping is done near dusk and dawn. Animals who are most active at this time are known as “crepuscular” rather than nocturnal (those who hunt in the dark of night). Even Great Horned Owls are more crepuscular than nocturnal. While an animal may be listed as “nocturnal,” most can be found ready for patrol during the twilight times of the day.

Kit fox

So, who is this cast of creepy characters? Coyotes, of course, who are clearly out in the middle of the night as evidenced by their howls. [Read more about coyotes in our January 2020 issue.]

Kit foxes, the smallest of the Southwest foxes, are rarely seen, coming out of their burrows only to feast on the mice running across the desert in very low light. If you should be rewarded with a glimpse of this sly little fellow, consider yourself lucky. They are so fast and shy that most of us miss them.


Javelina, badgers, coatimundis and bobcats are also classified as crepuscular; but chances are you will see them “creeping” around before the darkness sets in and just before first light. While hawks depend on their eyes to locate their prey by day, owls rely on their keen hearing to follow the scratching and chewing sounds made by rodents and rabbits. That is why owls can begin the hunt when hawks have retired for the night.


At Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) in North Scottsdale, near the open desert of Rio Verde, our sanctuary cares for all types of wildlife. They are fortunate to have a place to live since they are unable to be returned to the wild. Our monthly full moon tours are great opportunities to see and hear these creatures of little light. But, should you visit during the bright light of day, you will still see them since we bring along a little treat!

SWCC has been rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife since 1994 and though thousands have been returned to the wild, we have almost 100 animals in our sanctuary, including mountain lions, black bears, Mexican gray wolves and a jaguar hybrid.

Visit and check the calendar for tour availability.

Photos courtesy of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.

Living Water Lutheran Church Hosts Community Pet Festival

A free, family-friendly community event featuring furry friends and more will be held Sunday, Nov. 17. All people and pets are invited to attend this annual festival. Highlights include Blessing of the Animals, native wildlife rescued by the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, Elvis the Camel, Zuni the Mustang, cart rides for children by Nickel the Miniature Horse, music and refreshments.

Residents are invited to join the fun Sunday, Nov. 17, 1-4 pm, at Living Water Lutheran Church, 9201 East Happy Valley Road in Scottsdale. All pets must be leashed or otherwise secured.

For additional event information, visit, or call 480.473.8400.

Photo by m01229 on / CC BY

For The Procrastinators: Last Minute Gift Ideas

Yes, we know how you feel. The hectic pace of the holiday season just kicked into high gear and there are still a lot of items unchecked on that seemingly never-ending list of to-do’s. If you are still looking for that special, unique, perfect, unusual gift idea or holiday experience, here are some gifts to consider, places to shop and events to check out – this season and well into the New Year.

Götz Doll Collection at Pottery Barn KidsHearkening Back To Christmas’ Past

While electronics seem to dominate many wish lists, it is heartening to see that there are still plenty of “old-school” toys that will spark a child’s imagination. One such toy that came across our editorial desk was “Marianne” from the Götz Doll Collection, made exclusively for Pottery Barn Kids. These dolls will become an instant favorite with any little girl on your list. The 18” high dolls are lovely, with blushing cheeks, long hair that can be washed styled and brushed, eyes that close and arms and legs that can be moved up and down. Each doll comes dressed casually in a blouse, sweater, jeans, shoes and purse (the color varies depending on the doll), but can be dressed up in outfits ranging from a ballet tutu to party dress, (sold separately along with other accessories).

The detailing on Marianne is wonderful, from her cross-body shoulder bag and canvas sneakers to her soft eyes and delicate little fingers (see more here). This doll is ready for any adventure with her new owner.

Remote Control Wooden Utility Vehicle at Pottery Barn KidsAlso from Pottery Barn Kids is the Remote Control Wooden Utility Vehicle. This retro inspired vehicle is made of solid wood with a natural finish, and comes fully assembled along with an easy to use remote control (cleverly designed as a gas can). There are two styles available: a Jeep, which was received as a tester, and a motorcycle. While this toy may not have the tricky moves that some remote-control toys come with these days, the delight here is in the retro look and feel of the toy, and it drew oohs and ahhs when taken out of the box. It looks like a 3-D wooden puzzle, except it is a fully functioning remote-control vehicle complete with engine sounds. Older kids will enjoy this toy – especially those who enjoy constructing wooden puzzles – as much as the younger ones will. Overall, it’s a great gift that is modern, yet with an old-fashioned Christmas appeal.

Visit Pottery Barn Kids online at or in-store. There are two Valley locations: in Scottsdale at Scottsdale Fashion Square,7014 East Camelback Road (480.423.3813); and in Chandler at Chandler Fashion Center,3111 West Chandler Boulevard (480.899.7155).

Hit The Ice

Cityscape in Downtown Phoenix brought back its outdoor NRG Ice Rink this year. It’s a great way to get outdoors with the kids over winter break. The rink is open now through January 11, but if you go from December 26-31, $1 from each skate rental will be donated to the Phoenix Parks Foundation. ( Admission is $10 and includes skate rental. For more information, call 602.772.3900 or visit the website.

Keeping It LocalPhoestivus Market at Phoenix Public Market

Phoenix Public Market has teamed up with Get Your Phx to present something a little different this season; the Second Annual Phoestivus Market. Head to Downtown Phoenix on December 21 for a holiday market with an all-local focus; shop for unique gifts, drinks and locally grown and produced food in a festive atmosphere that will include the Phoestivus Pole, Feats of Strength, Airing of Grievances, plenty of food truck fare and holiday carollers. The event runs from 4-8:30pm. For more information, visit the Market’s website.

Treat The Foodie On Your List

The Devoured Culinary Classic returns to the Phoenix Art Museum March 10-11. The event featuresArizona’s finest local restaurants, chefs, wineries and industry purveyors, all set in the Museums beautiful Dorrance Sculpture Garden. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet Arizona culinary talents, taste and discover a variety of chef creations, enjoy cooking demonstrations and learn more aboutArizona’s pioneering wine makers. As a special incentive to get tickets early, now through January 1, the price for a daily ticket is only $59.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 602.257.2124 or visit

Bears at Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Two of the three young Black Bears who reside at Southwest Wildlife’s Nature Center can often been seen at play.

Go A Little Wild

Two North Scottsdale sanctuaries for native Southwest and other wildlife are offering an opportunity to get a close-up view of the wildlife they house and learn more about their various roles in Western ecosystems.

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured, displaced and orphaned wildlife, and provides homes for animals that cannot be released. The sanctuary is the only facility in the Southwest that is capable of handling large mammals, and also serves as a holding facility for the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program. The Center is home to coyotes, foxes, raccoons, wolves, mountain lions, javelina, mule deer, bobcats, bears and other species.

Tour Details: December 28-31; 10am-12pm each day; $10 for adults, $7 for children ages three through 15. Send an e-mail to or call 480.471.3621.

Black Mamba at Phoenix Herpetological Society

Visitors to the Phoenix Herpetological Society can get a good look at the Black Mamba, one of the world’s most lethal snakes, thanks to a state-of-the art “venom room”.

Phoenix Herpetological Society is home to more than 1,400 native and non-native reptiles, some of them endangered. Animals include snakes, lizards such as green iguanas and Asian monitors, alligators, crocodiles, Desert and Galapagos tortoises, turtles and more. A glass-enclosed venom room houses one of the largest collections of venomous snakes in the western United States, with 82 species and subspecies.

Tour Details: December 26-31 and January 2-7; tours start at 1pm each day; $20 for adults, $15 for children ages three through 18; children younger than 3 are admitted free. Call 480.513.4377, and select option 4, or send an e-mail to

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