The bat-eared fox is an African species of fox who is found living across the savannahs of the southern and eastern parts of the continent. It is so called because of its very large ears which are up to an impressive 12cm (4.7 inches) in size and full of blood vessels to clear the heat and keep cool. These big ears also give the fox really good hearing.
This African fox is small and cute, weighing only up to 5kgs, and measuring 55cm in length including both its and body while its bushy tail adds on 23 – 34cm. Their small faces are very characteristic with a racoon-like ‘’face mask’’ black in colour and muzzles short and pointed. Bat-eared foxes have short legs and strong paws adapted for digging their dens.
Their fur is a yellowish-brown to sandy grey colour, with their bellies being lightest in colour and the fur around their eyes, muzzle, back of ears, legs and tips of their tails darker. Wild animals such as hyenas and birds of prey hunt them down for food while humans hunt them for their fur.
|Young bat-eared fox.|
There are two species of bat-eared foxes that roam East and southern Africa. One lives from Ethiopia and South Sudan to Tanzania, the other is found from southern Zambia and Angola to South Africa as well as extending to Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Bat-eared foxes are native to 10 countries on the African continent and their homes range in size from 0.3 to 3.5 km2.
Bat-eared foxes prefer areas of bare ground with low shrubs and short grasses to live and forage for their food. However they do venture into areas of thick shrubs and tall grasses to hide out when feeling threatened.
They raise their baby foxes in dens they dug out themselves as protection from extreme weather. Bat-eared foxes also enjoy relaxing under acacia trees in South Africa during the day, seeking shade and protection from the harsh African sun.
Bat-eared foxes live in breeding pairs or family groups of up to 15 individuals which include mating pairs with their young. Being highly social animals they are often groom one another, play together and sleep in their protective groups. They use visual displays such as facial expressions, ear and tail posture as a means to communicate among each other. These foxes will also call out to one another making a shrill cry.
Males are called ‘dogs’ and females are referred to as ‘vixens’ while their young are called ‘kits’, ‘cubs’ or ‘pups’. The males are the guards of the groups and make for great fathers as they groom and play with the youngsters while the mother searches for food for her family.
|Eating termites at dusk.|
These African foxes are mostly nocturnal but sometimes are out and about during the day, this depends on their location of the time of the year. They prefer to feed under the cover of nightfall, emerging from their underground dens at dusk, to feast in their groups.
Bat-eared foxes have a mostly insectivorous diet, eating grasshoppers and termites, although sometimes birds, eggs, rodents, lizards, reptiles and wild berries found in their surroundings. Their diet consists of an extraordinary number of 1.15 million termites a year which is in total 80% of their diets. They seldom drink water as they gain most of the moisture needed form their food.
They have extremely pointed teeth with which to quickly and efficiently chew their food and which in turn helps to digest their meals. Their teeth are also small and they have up to 8 extra molars which grind the hard casings of the insects they chomp down.
|Peering out the den.|
These foxy animals form monogamous pairs and breed each year having a litter of three to six. After carrying their developing young for 6 – 70 days, she gives birth to the litter in the safety of their den. Both mother and father take responsibility for the litter, by taking care and protecting their youngsters.
Just 9 days after birth the young cubs open their eyes and from 17 days of age they begin to explore the outside world leaving the den for adventure. At 1 month old the litter begins to wean off from their mother but continue to suckle until 3 or 4 months old. Young bat-eared foxes are considered fully grown when they reach 5 to 6 months old and are ready to form their own family when just 9 months old.
Most young foxes leave their family groups or parents to form with another group or make a pair although some females do remain with their native group.
Sadly the mortality rate in litters are high and often the entire litter born does not survive. This is due to several factors such as the fact that the mother only has four nipples while sometimes giving birth of up to 6 cubs and the danger of predators grabbing the young.
Did you know?
They have up to 48 teeth, more than any other non-marsupial mammal.
Bat-eared foxes are hunted by birds of prey, jackals and sadly humans for their fur.
|Bat-eared fox family.|