The bat-eared fox’s most obvious feature is its five-inch long ears, which provide acute hearing and also help dissipate heat. This African species relies on its hearing to find food, primarily insects. The fox can detect the movement of a single termite or beetle larva up to a foot underground! It then pounces or quickly digs to claim its meal. A single fox may eat 1.15 million termites a year, and this species plays a critical role in controlling harvester termite populations.
Bat-eared foxes have more teeth than any other canine—between 46 and 50; by comparison, adult domestic dogs have 42 teeth. Bat-eared foxes have evolved to have molars that are more effective for chewing insects than shearing flesh. Often, bat-eared foxes are found near herds of hoofed animals, taking advantage of insects stirred up by their movements or attracted to their droppings. Most of the water they need is obtained from the food they eat. Bat-eared foxes are largely monogamous and live in family groups of two to five individuals. They use their sharp claws to dig roomy underground dens with multiple entrances and chambers, preferably hidden by grassy or overgrown vegetation. They will also use abandoned termite mounds or burrows dug by other animals. They may rest outside the den during the day and hunt at night when it is cooler. Bat-eared foxes have overlapping ranges, but they are good neighbors and intermingle easily. Up to six offspring, called kits, are born during the rainy season when insects are most abundant. The kits nurse for about 15 weeks, twice as long as domestic dog pups. The male babysits the kits, protecting, grooming, and playing with them while the female forages. Kits stay with their parents for about a year.
The bat-eared fox is found in two disconnected areas in Africa. One population is in east Africa from Sudan to Tanzania. A second population is in southern Africa. They prefer open, grassy plains and savannas with relatively little rainfall.
Eighty percent of the bat-eared fox’s diet is insects. Favorites include harvester termites, dung beetles, locusts, and grasshoppers. They also feed on fruit, vegetable matter, roots, ground-based birds, eggs, small mammals and reptiles, and invertebrates such as scorpions.
Body length is about two feet with a one-foot tail, and weight ranges from seven to 12 pounds. Lifespan is six to 13 years.