Bat Eared Fox Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The bat eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) typically inhabits the savanna of Africa. It is an insectivorous animal. True to its name, the fox’s bat-like ears distinguish it from the rest of the canids. It is also called ‘big-eared fox’ and ‘black eared fox’. It is thought to have first appeared around 800,000 years ago somewhere in the middle of Pleistocene epoch.

Bat Eared Fox Facts

Anatomy

  • They grow to a length of about 0.8 m and averages 0.3 m in shoulder height. Bat-eared foxes weigh up to 3 – 5 kg.
  • They are recognized by their long sharp muzzle with the top is black and the sides are white. The fox has fluffy grey hair all over its body.

Distribution

  • Bat-eared foxes are native to Africa. Its range extends from southern Sudan, Tanzania, to Ethiopia. The fox also occurs in the southern Africa including South Africa, Angola, and Zambia.
  • They are probably the most common of the medium-sized carnivores in the subcontinent. Bat eared foxes also occupy the semi-arid regions of the East Africa.
  • Some of the isolated population is found in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
  • They have a home range of 0.3 to 3.5 km2.

Habitat

  • They are thought to make homes in arid regions of savanna including short grasslands. Bat-eared foxes don’t seem to prefer tall grasses instead they fancy living on bare grounds—particularly those that are abundant in short grasses. Grazing ungulates mainly feed on these grasses.
  • When threatened, foxes hide themselves behind tall grasses or dense shrubs but these grasses are not going to become fox’s habitat.
  • In order to avoid the heat of the day, bat eared foxes go into the shade of acacia trees in South Africa.
Bat Eared Fox ©wildscenics.photoshelter.com
Bat Eared Fox ©wildscenics.photoshelter.com

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • The bat-eared fox is primarily an insectivore as termites make up 80 – 90% of the fox’s diet. Prominent among termites is harvester termite (Hodotermes mossambicus) but if the harvester termite is not available then fox probably go for other termite species.
  • It supplements the diet with subterranean beetle larvae and arthropods including millipedes, scorpions, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, moths, ants, reptiles, small mammals, and fungi.
  • They rarely feed on birds.
  • They will mostly forage in groups of three individuals but sometimes foxes do hunt alone.

Behavior

  • Bat-eared foxes have remarkable hearing sense precisely because of its large ears. They hear prey rather than smelling it or even seeing it.
  • The foraging behavior typically relies on the availability of termites; the more termites are, the less they travel.
  • During summer, individual foxes forage at dusk and keep searching all night. In winter, they will forage only in the day.
  • Bat-eared foxes are more likely to show nocturnal behavior than diurnal.
  • The fox is a social mammal and it is usually found in groups consisting of 15 individuals.
  • They eat, play, and rest in groups which give them an added advantage against predators.
  • One of the ways in which they communicate with each other is a visual display. Foxes move their tail in a U shape when they must show aggression. However the tail goes straight while running.
  • They are able to locate individuals as far as 30 meters away.
  • Foxes will produce a loud bark-like sound when alarmed. Generally the bat-eared fox is a silent animal.
  • Adult foxes are extremely playful in the wild. Within a group members will often chase down even fight with other individuals.
bat eared fox facts
Bat Eared Fox ©www.digitalwild.co.za

Reproductive Biology

  • A female gives birth to 1 – 6 live young. The baby foxes are called kits. In Kalahari region, the birth occurs in September to November while in Botswana kits are born in October to December.
  • The gestation period lasts about 8 – 10 weeks.
  • The lactation period ranges from 14 – 15 weeks. During lactation female fox must eat as much food as possible to ensure milk production.
  • Young foxes go independent after 160 – 180 days and they attain maturity at 8 – 9 months age.
  • The cubs will begin to step out of their burrows once they are 21 days old. However parents do not go too far to leave cubs at the mercy of predators. When a predator attacks, cubs may give a high-pitched alarm call that brings the parents back to the cubs.
  • Predators of bat-eared fox include hyenas, leopards, and sometimes birds of prey.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

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