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