Class: Mammalia (Mammal)
Head and body length: 18 to 26 inches (46 to 66 centimeters)
Shoulder height: 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 centimeters)
Weight: 7 to 12 pounds (3.2 to 5.4 kilograms)
Gestation: 60 to 75 days
Number of young at birth: 2 to 6
Age of maturity: fully grown by 6 months; females sexually mature at 18 months.
Lifespan: up to 13 years in zoos, unknown in wild
Conservation status: lower risk
Unlike other dog species, bat-eared foxes don't seem to mind sharing their territory. Up to 72 foxes have been recorded in 1 square mile (2.6 square kilometers)!
Animals that prey on bat-eared foxes include eagles, jackals, and hyenas.
The scientific name for the bat-eared fox is Otocyon megalotis. It is from the Greek words oto/otis (ear), cyon (dog), and mega (big) and basically means “eared dog with big ears.”
A male fox is called a “dog,” a female is a “vixen,” and babies are called “kits.”
Mammals: Bat-eared Fox
All ears! These five kits seem to hear something interesting.
The bat-eared fox is a small African fox known for its enormous ears, which are over 5 inches (13 centimeters) long. The ears are full of blood vessels that shed heat and help keep the fox cool; they also give the animal a very good sense of hearing.
Bat-eared foxes are sandy gray with lighter fur on the belly and darker fur around the eyes, muzzle, backs of the ears, feet, and tail tip. The inside of the ears and a band across the forehead are white or buff. Its wide habitat range matches that of its favorite food, the harvester termite.
Those "satellite dish" ears help the little fox find food and are full of blood vessels that shed heat and help keep the animal cool.
Termites and other tasty treats
Yes, this fox eats insects! Besides termites, which it licks up from the ground, the bat-eared fox eats grasshoppers, scorpions, spiders, millipedes, rodents, lizards, fruits, and eggs. But insects make up the main part of its diet.
Bat-eared foxes have more teeth (48) than most mammals, and that's what sets them apart from other species of foxes. Where other members of the dog family have two upper and three lower molars on each side of the mouth, bat-eared foxes have three upper and four lower molars. They have specialized teeth to chew their creeping, crawling food, and they have those huge ears so they can listen carefully and hear the insects moving around.
Can you hear beetles crawling? Once they locate the insects by sound, the foxes jump and quickly catch them, then crunch them up for a tasty, high-protein meal. This little fox sometimes travels up to 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) each night when looking for food.
A typical night
In East Africa, the bat-eared fox is most active at night. In South Africa, it is nocturnal during the hot summer months and diurnal in the winter. Typically, a group of bat-eared foxes spends the day asleep in an underground den, coming out in the late afternoon to relax and socialize. Around dusk, social grooming and play increase, and as dusk falls, the foxes leave the den area to look for food. Around midnight, they take a break to rest and then forage again until dawn. Back at the den, they socialize and bask in the sun until it gets too hot, when they go back underground once more.
Bat-eared fox kits wait at the den's entrance for a parent's return.
Bat-eared foxes usually live in groups of 2 to 5 that have overlapping territories of almost 200 acres (80 hectares). There is usually one adult male and one or two adult females; grown offspring often stay with the group for some time. They communicate with each other using their ears and tail; the foxes also use a variety of soft whistles. Bat-eared foxes have nine calls; seven of these are low-pitched, only meant for use within the group. Adults sometimes scent mark grass or bushes with their urine.
A bat-eared fox kit practices its stalking skills on a crow.
A bat-eared fox family has several den holes in its territory, each with many entrances and chambers. They are usually found near large animals like zebras, wildebeest, and buffalo because that's where the bugs are—sprouting new grass bring out the termites, and the dung beetles lay their eggs in dung piles. The foxes' claws are made for digging, and they can create their own burrow or enlarge an empty one made by another animal. The den is a protected area where the group sleeps and also where the females give birth.
Bat-eared fox births usually occur between September and November but they can happen any time of year in East Africa. The mother gives birth to two to six babies that are called kits. About the size of domestic kittens, the fox kits look a lot like Chihuahua pups but with much larger ears! Often, one or two of the smaller kits die in the first three weeks. The mother fox nurses the kits for 15 weeks, but unlike other canids, she rarely regurgitates solid food for them. This is because the regurgitated food would have a lot of hard insect parts that kits could not digest. The young are fully grown by the time they're 6 months old, and females can reach their first breeding period at 18 months. In zoos, bat-eared foxes can live as long as 13 years.