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Fox, Bat-Eared

Bat Eared Fox at the LA Zoo Photo Credit Tad Motoyama

Scientific Name: Otocyon megalotis

There are a total of 23 different species of foxes in the world, but the bat-eared fox’s anatomy is so unique that it is the only animal in its genus, Otocyon. This African native is best known for its conspicuously large ears and unique dental makeup.

Deep in the Den

Mating has not been well-observed in the wild, but it is believed that bat-eared foxes are monogamous, and breed once a year. Pups are born during the rainy part of summer, when insects are most abundant. These nocturnal creatures live in nuclear family units and construct roomy underground dens with multiple entrances and chambers, preferably hidden by grassy or overgrown vegetation. The may move to a new den if the old one becomes unsafe—for example, if a predator discovers its location.

The bat-eared fox is classified as lower risk, meaning that the population is fairly stable in the wild.

Interestingly, the bat-eared fox resides in two disconnected areas—in eastern Africa, from southeast Sudan to the middle of Tanzania; and in southern Africa, from Angola to regions of South Africa.  These furry hunters prefer open, grassy plains and savannas with relatively little rainfall.

This fox is omnivorous, although their primary food is insects, which constitute up to 80% of their diet. Their favorites include dung beetles, locusts, and grasshoppers, and they will catch their prey with the traditional “pounce” or “jump” used by many other foxes. They are the only member of the canine family that prefers insects over any kind of meat. The bat-eared fox is also known to dine on fruit, vegetable matter, roots, ground-based birds, eggs, small mammals and reptiles, and other invertebrates such as scorpions.

The bat-eared fox’s most obvious features, of course, are its generously sized, 5-inch long ears, which provide acute hearing. This species relies primarily on its hearing to find food. They can even detect the underground movement of a termite or a beetle larvae!

These foxes are also distinguished by their unique teeth. Specifically, they have more of them than any other canine—between 46 and 50. Their canine teeth are strong and sharp, while the rear teeth are smaller and flatter, an adaptation that probably arose from munching on lots of chewy insects.

Their bodies are slender and compact, measuring only about 1½ to 2 feet long with a tail of around 9 to 13 inches. Both sexes weigh 6 to 12 pounds, and females are slightly larger. Their fur ranges from dust- to dirt-brown, with black fur around the feet, tail tip, and edges of the ears. They also usually have patches of white around the muzzle and eyes.

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