Bat-Eared Fox

Bat-Eared Fox

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Otocyon megalotis
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
6-13 yrs
TOP SPEED
112 km/h
WEIGHT
2-4.5 kg
LENGTH
46-66 cm

This fox is named for its ears that are huge in proportion to its head. It has a small face with white, raccoon-like mask and a short, pointed muzzle. This fox has short legs. The Bat-eared fox’s body is ashy gray while its limbs, tail and back parts of the ears are black in color. Their bellies and the undersides of necks are comparatively paler in color. Teeth of these foxes are rather small compared to other canid species. Every year these foxes renew their coats by moulting.

Distibution

Their habitat is arid grasslands and short-grass savannas. There are 2 subspecies of the Bat-eared fox in Africa. One - in eastern part of Africa, stretching from Tanzania to southern Sudan and Ethiopia. The other subspecies is found in southern part of Africa from Cape Peninsula and Cape Agulhas in South Africa to Angola and Zambia, reaching Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Bat-Eared Fox habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Their habits largely depend on the area of their living. Thus, foxes in the Serengeti region are most active at night while those in South Africa are nocturnal in summer and diurnal in winter. The Bat-eared foxes are sociable animals, living in pairs or family groups. Family groups of these foxes include mated pair and their young. Pairs of these foxes share the same den, foraging together and protecting each other. They can also rest together and lie in contact, social-groom, playing with one another. The foxes are able to dig dens for themselves as well as dig prey out of holes. However, in spite of being excellent diggers, they often prefer using burrows dug by other species such as aardvarks.

Diet and Nutrition

Bat-eared foxes are carnivores (insectivores). About 80% of their diet can consist of dung beetles and harvester termites. The body fluids of these insects serve the bat-eared foxes as a water source. The foxes also feed upon chicks and eggs of birds. In addition, their usual diet includes arthropods, small rodents, lizards and vegetable matter.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
September-November
PREGNANCY DURATION
60-70 days
BABY CARRYING
2-5 kits
INDEPENDENT AGE
5-6 months
FEMALE NAME
vixen
MALE NAME
reynard, dog
BABY NAME
kit, cub, pup

The bat-eared fox is monogamous, usually mating once in a lifetime. However, there are recorded cases of 2 females living with 1 male and a case of communal nursing. Breeding takes place in September-November. The gestation period lasts 60-70 days, after which the female gives birth to 2-5 babies. Both parents participate in rearing the babies. On the 9th day after their birth, the babies open their eyes while on the 17th day the youngsters begin to venture from the den. Sometimes the process of weaning lasts long: it usually starts when the babies are 1 month old and lasts about 2-3 months, during which the youngsters continue suckling from their mother. And finally, at the age of 5-6 months the young are full grown. Sexual maturity is reached at 9 months old.

Population

Population threats

The foxes attract hunters for their pelts: in countries like Botswana, pelts of these foxes are highly valued, being a good source of income for local people. Another serious threat is fragmentation of habitat. For example, farmland areas of Namibia hold greatly reduced the population of these foxes, comparing to national parks and protected areas. And finally, diseases such as canine parvovirus, canine distemper virus and rabies, are among notable dangers to the Bat-eared fox’s population: outbreaks of rabies cause up to 90% mortality of this species.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Bat-eared fox is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, in The IUCN Red List, the bat-eared fox is classified as a species of Least Concern (LC) with a stable number of population.

Ecological niche

The Bat-eared foxes control harvester termite population in their habitat, eating up to 1.15 million termites per year.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Instead of drinking water, the Bat-eared fox obtains most of the moisture from its food.
  • These foxes have 48 teeth, which is more than these of most mammals.
  • These animals have 9 calls by which they communicate with each other. They whistle softly as well as using their tails and ears as means of communication.
  • The Bat-eared fox is the only species in the genus Otocyon.
  • Not only do this fox remind a bat by its ears, but it also uses these ears for the same purpose as bats: it listens for insects. These foxes usually prey at night, walking around the area and listening carefully to hear the sound of scuttling prey.

References

1. Bat-Eared Fox Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat-eared_fox
2. Bat-Eared Fox on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15642/0

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About