Family, Description and Size:
The Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis) is the smallest member of the Canidae, or dog family, found in North America. It has very large ears for its size, from 2.8 to 3.2 inches tall, which help it regulate its body temperature, since foxes do not have the abundance of sweat glands like humans do.
The male of the species is slightly larger than the female. The average weight of a kit fox is 3.5 to 6 lbs, about as heavy as a domestic cat. The body length varies between 18 to 21 inches without counting a tail that adds an average of 9.8 to 13.4 inches. It has a rusty-gray colored fur and a black tip on its tail. The tail is yellowish to gray and lacks the gray fox’s black stripe.
Range and Habits:
The Kit Fox prefers arid climates and lives usually in desert shrub, chaparral and grassland habitats. They can be found in urban or farmland areas too. They exist all over the Desert Southwest portion of the United States, at any where from 1300 to 6200 feet above sea level.
The Kit Fox is mainly nocturnal and is rarely seen during daylight hours. It is carnivorous, but like many other carnivores in times of famine it will complement its diet with vegetable matter, like tomatoes, cactus fruit and other types of fruit available in their area. It will also scavenge carrion. The Kit Fox is an able hunter and can catch Kangaroo Rats, Cottontail rabbits, black-tailed Jackrabbits, hares, fish, prairies dogs, insects, snakes, ground-dwelling birds and meadow voles.
Many Kit Fox families may share the same area, but if that is the case they tend not to hunt during the same hours.
The Kit Foxes establish monogamous relationships. They usually breed during October and November. Polygamous relationships have also been observed. The pairs may change from year to year, but during one mating season a female and a male often mate exclusively with each other. Both parents raise their young together. The male mainly does the hunting for both the lactating female and the young once they can have solid food. The female will also hunt while the male watches the den.
Litters are born during March or April and include about 1 to 7 pups. The young will only leave the Fox’s den after they are four weeks of age and they will leave their parents at six months old. Sexual maturity is usually reached by the age of 10 months.
Predators, Mortality and Lifespan:
Kit Foxes have many predators like bobcats, wolves and other large carnivores native to North America. Their young have an average death rate of up to 70%, which can be due to famine, predators and disease.
The Kit Fox enjoys a healthy population and is on the least concern list of endangered animals.
The average lifespan of a Kit Fox in the wild is 5.5 years, while in captivity they can reach up to 12 years.