|The bat eared fox is one of the most peculiar members
of the dog family. It has extremely large ears, which it uses to locate food,
and its teeth are unlike those of other foxes. The bat eared fox lives in
two separate regions in eastern and southern Africa. This division of its
range is not recent. Nor is it the result of human activity. Instead, the
separation appears to have occurred many thousands of years ago because of
a change in the African climate.
Habitat: the bat eared fox is most at home in the arid plains and savannas of eastern and southern Africa. Although it prefers open country, where the grass is short, it also inhabits brush and scrublands. For protection from the elements and its many enemies, the bat eared fox finds shelter in a deep den. It either digs this den itself or takes it over from other burrowing animals. The den is often several feet deep and contains more than one underground chamber with a number of entrances. When patrolling its territory or searching for food, the bat eared fox turns, twists, and doubles back on itself to confuse the hounds, jackals, and birds of prey that pursue it. Like many other members of the dog family, the bat eared fox is very sociable.
Food and Hunting: The bat eared fox is the only member of the dog family that feeds almost entirely on insects. Insects can make up 80 percent of its diet. Termites, especially harvester termites, are such an important part of its diet that the fox’s range closely mirrors that of the termite. Dung beetles are another popular food. The fox digs them up from the ground, where the larvae are buried in balls of manure. The bat eared fox’s small teeth are suited to its insect diet. It has as many as eight molars – teeth that are better for crushing than chewing. In addition to insects, the bat eared fox feeds on small mammals, the eggs and young of ground nesting birds, fruit, and tubers. With its ears pointing forward, a bat eared fox listens for the sound of grubs moving under the ground. Bat eared foxes rest outside their burrows before hunting.
Breeding: The breeding habits of the bat eared fox vary throughout its range. In the north it establishes territories during the breeding season and marks them with the scent of urine. But in the south the territories of several adults often overlap. The bat eared fox mates for life, and pairs form very strong bonds. Two months after mating, the female gives birth to two to six cubs. They nurse for up to 15 weeks, but they may be weaned in four weeks. The cubs first leave the den at about two and a half weeks. If danger threatens, the adults grab them by the scruff of the neck and carry them to safety. Fully grown by six months, the cubs remain with their parents until the next year. In spite of the mother’s continual presence, less than half of the litter survives through the first year.
Bat eared Fox and Man: After the leopard, humans are the greatest enemy of the bat eared fox. People hunt the fox for its soft, dense fur, particularly during the colder months from April to July, when the fox’s coat is at its best. The fox is also hunted by farmers who do not realize that its small teeth are no threat to livestock. In some areas, however, the bat eared fox is actually extending its range, helped by the conversion of wood and scrublands into open pastures for cattle.
Related Species: Although Visibly
similar to the fennec fox, this unusual member of the dog family more closely
resembles the raccoon dog and the gray foxes.
Features of the Bat Eared Fox:
Did You Know:
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