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Kit Fox Fact File

Vulpes macrotis

Credit: Public Domain

Weight

1.6-2.7kg

(3.5-6lbs)

Length

38-50cm

(15-19.5in)

Lifespan

Wild 15 years

Captive 15 years

Diet

Carnivore

Rodents, Reptiles

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

A Well Adapted Desert Dweller!

The kit fox is fitted with a range of adaptations which will allow them to survive in their arid habitats. These include large ears which help to dissipate heat in to the environment and fur covered paws which provide protection against the heat.

They are primarily carnivores and will seek out rodents, reptiles, birds and invertebrates.

Females give birth to as many as nine young in a den which they dig themselves or take from another animal. During the time they are feeding their young they do not leave the den and rely on a mate to bring them food.

They are threatened by the conversion of their habitat for housing, solar energy production and road development. This also increases the chance they will succumb to vehicle strikes.

Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.

Appearance

What does the Kit Fox look like?

The coat of the kit fox will vary across the year. During summer it is a rusty-tan or buff grey color. During winter it will become a silvery grey color.

On either side of the snout is a patch of black fur.

At the end of the body is a bushy tail which will measure 22-32cm (8.5-12.5in) long.

They measure an average 38-50cm (15-19.5in) long and weigh 1.6-2.7kg (3.5-6lbs). Males tend to be slightly larger than females.

Kit foxes are the smallest species of wild canid found in North America.

Adaptations

How does the Kit Fox survive in its habitat?


The kit fox has a pair of large, triangular shaped ears which are lined with blood vessels that help to radiate excess hot off in to the environment.

These large ears also provide excellent hearing which allow them to detect prey which is under the ground.

They have large eyes which absorb more light and allow them to see when moving around at night.

Their feet pads are lined with fur. This provides protection when moving across the warm sand in their environment. The fur lining will also make their steps quieter helping them to stalk prey.

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Diet

What does the Kit Fox eat?

Kit fox are primarily carnivores which will feed on rodents, pikas, birds, jackrabbits, insects and reptiles such as snakes or lizards. Occasionally they will feed on fruit.

These animals obtain much of their water from their food and can go for periods without free water. When it is available they will drink.

Learn more about the Kit Fox in this video from CDFW on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Kit Fox?

North America is the native home of the kit fox. Here they can be found in Mexico and the southern United States.

In the US they occur in the following states – Utah, Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, California, Arizona and Colorado.

In some areas their range will overlap with that of the related swift fox. In some areas it is thought they interbreed.

Habitat

Where can the Kit Fox survive?

They are found in arid and semi-arid habitats including areas of shrubland, grassland and savanna. They also use agricultural areas such as orchards.

These animals will seek shelter in a den. They may dig this themselves or they may taken over a den dug by a species such as the prairie dog, badgers or ground squirrels. Some have been found sheltering in man-made structures such as storm drains.

Where they dig their own burrow it is formed among a creosote bush or other plant to make it more stable.

Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis)

Credit: Public Domain

Reproduction

How does the Kit Fox produce its young?

New pairs mostly form during October and November ahead of the breeding season during December and January.

A female will give birth to a litter of between 4 and 5 young known as cubs following the 49-55 day gestation period. Large litters may include up to 9 cubs. She will give birth in a den. During the time she is suckling the young she does not leave the den and relies on the male to bring her food.

Young can leave the den after three or four months and begin to move around the territory with their parents.

Female cubs have been observed to delay their movement away from the birth den to help raise the next litter of cubs.

Behavior

What does the Kit Fox do during its day?

These animals will maintain a territory. This is variable in size across their range. Animals which live in deserts require a larger territory as it needs to contain enough food for them to feed.

Pairs will often live together but the bonds holding them together are loose and pairs regularly split up and join with other partners.

Despite living together they will often separate to feed.

Kit foxes are primarily nocturnal. This allows them to avoid the heat of the day and the predators which are active by day.

Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What stops the Kit Fox from surviving and thriving?

Natural predators of the kit fox include coyotes.

Food competition also has a major impact on their survival. Competitors include bobcats, other foxes such as the red fox and birds such as the golden eagle.

Numbers of the kit fox are decreasing across their range. No major studies have been conducted on the full population size of the kit fox.

A major threat to the survival of the kit fox is habitat conversion. They are seeing their habitat converted for use in agriculture and also for housing developments. An emerging threat is the increase in commercial solar developments.

An increase in road development through their range is seeing an increase in reports of vehicle strikes.

Small numbers are captured for sale in to the pet trade. Some are also harvested for their fur.

Another emerging threat is mange which is a disease that often proves fatal.

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Quick facts

This species has been subject to many studies in to their taxonomy and the number of subspecies which occur. It is commonly agreed that the population found in San Joaquin Valley of California and isolated from others will warrant subspecific designation as, V. m. mutica. At present the most widely accepted taxonomy lists two species.

Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis)

Credit: Public Domain

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Cypher, B. & List, R. 2014. Vulpes macrotisThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T41587A62259374. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-3.RLTS.T41587A62259374.en. Accessed on 12 January 2022.

DesertUSA.com, 2022. Kit Fox – DesertUSA. [online] Desertusa.com. Available at: <https://www.desertusa.com/animals/kit-fox.html> [Accessed 12 January 2022].

Wildlife Waystation. 2022. Fox, Kit. [online] Available at: <https://wildlifewaystation.org/animals/species/fox-kit> [Accessed 12 January 2022].

Canids.org. 2022. Kit fox | Canids. [online] Available at: <https://www.canids.org/species/view/PREKK8422331> [Accessed 12 January 2022].

Myodfw.com. 2022. Kit fox | Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. [online] Available at: <https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/kit-fox> [Accessed 12 January 2022].

Oregonconservationstrategy.org. 2022. Kit Fox – Oregon Conservation Strategy. [online] Available at: <https://www.oregonconservationstrategy.org/strategy-species/kit-fox/> [Accessed 12 January 2022].

Livingdesert.org. 2022. Wonderfully Wild | The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. [online] Available at: <https://www.livingdesert.org/animals/kit-fox/> [Accessed 12 January 2022].

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