Kit Fox, Vulpes macrotis

Kingdom:  Animalia

Phylum:  Chordata

Class:  Mammalia

Order:  Carnivora

Family:  Canidae

Genus:  Vulpes

Species:  macrotis

Status

Stable populations throughout most of their range.  In some states there is concern about their populations.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Status: Endangered.  International Union for the Conservation of Nature Status: Least Concern; population decreasing.

Description

Kit foxes are the smallest member of the family Canidae in North America.  Their most distinctive feature is their exceptionally large ears placed close together on the head.  Kit foxes range in color from yellowish to gray.  They usually have a dark-colored back, light-colored undersides and inner ears, and distinct dark patches on each side of the nose and at the end of the tail.  Males average slightly larger than females.  They range from 17 to 21 inches in length and 4 to 6 pounds in weight.

Habitat and Range

Kit foxes are primarily found in the southwestern part of the United States and northern and central Mexico.  They are found as far north as the arid interior of Oregon, east to southwestern Colorado, south through Nevada, Utah, southeastern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and into western Texas.  In Mexico they are found mainly in the states of Coahuila, Chihuahua, and Nuevo Leon and throughout Baja California.  Kit foxes are primarily found in arid regions, such as desert scrub, chaparral, and grasslands.

Diet

Kit foxes are primarily carnivores, eating primarily rodents and rabbits.  If food is scarce, they have been reported to eat tomatoes, cactus fruits, and other available fruits.  They also will scavenge carrion and eat large insects, lizards, snakes, and ground-dwelling birds.

Reproduction

Most studies have shown kit foxes to be monogamous, with pairs mating for life.  Occasional polygyny has also been reported, wherein a single male may mate with multiple females.  When the female is ready to reproduce, she goes out on her own in search of a den.  This usually happens around the month of September.  In October, the male kit fox will join her and remain with her until the end of whelping season.  Typical gestation period is 49 to 55 days, giving birth in early spring.  Kit foxes can produce a litter of 1 to 7 pups, with an average of 4.

Behavior

Kit foxes are relatively inactive during hot desert days, remaining in their dens.  They are primarily nocturnal but occasionally are crepuscular as well.  Kit foxes forage alone.  Kit foxes are not exceptionally territorial, preferring to live in underground burrows in pairs or small family groups.  Territories of neighboring family groups can overlap.  Females are thought to be relatively sedentary; males seem to disperse more widely.

Wow!

  • Live 4-7 years in the wild, 14 in captivity.
  • Kit foxes have very large ears for improved thermoregulation and excellent hearing.
  • Kit foxes sometimes bark at perceived threats or use a “hacking growl” in intraspecific encounters.
  • Other common names include: desert fox, zorra del desierto, zorra norteña (Spanish), and wüstenfuchs (German).
  • Similar species is the swift fox in central Unites States.  Appearance is extremely similar.  Some taxonomists argue swift fox and kit fox are same species.