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What Is a Kit Fox?

By Rebecca Cartwright
Updated May 21, 2024
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The kit fox, sometimes called the desert fox, is Vulpes macrotis, the smallest of the three members of the Vulpes genus of foxes native to North America. It is found in the drier parts of the American southwest and west as well as Baja, California, and the central and northern parts of Mexico. The kit fox is closely related to the swift fox, Vulpes velox, and though it has been suggested that they are the same species, most authorities consider them distinct. They are predators, principally living on small mammals, and their population fluctuates with local prairie dog and rabbit populations. Although the species is not considered gravely threatened, habitat degradation and fragmentation have led to a decline in population is some areas.

Grasslands, salt or sagebrush scrub areas, juniper-pinion forest and orchards are preferred habitats for the kit fox. It is also found in urban areas where there is enough cover to hide its activities. The kit fox range extends west from west Texas through New Mexico, western Colorado, Utah, Nevada and southern California, and north to southeast Oregon and southwest Idaho. In Mexico, the kit fox is found in the northern parts of Sonora, north Chihuahua, western Nuevo Leon and northern Zacatecas as well as the Baja peninsula.

Kit foxes live singly or in pairs in non-exclusive territories that may overlap with each other. Within their territories they have up to ten dens which they use year-round. Sometimes they take over underground structures dug by prairie dogs or badgers. They are nocturnal, remaining in their den during the day and emerging at night to hunt prairie dogs, rabbits, ground squirrels, small rodents and ground nesting birds.

Ranging in total length from 2.3 to 2.75 feet (about 71 to 81 cm), kit foxes have large ears and narrow faces. Their fur is usually light shades of gray, yellow or buff with black guard hairs, a black or brown muzzle and a black tip of the tail. They average 2.5 to 5.5 lbs (1.1 to 2.5 kg) in weight, with females usually being lighter, but not shorter, than males.

Their breeding season is December through February and the pups are born six weeks to two months later. Litters average four or five babies and the parents share in caring for them. Pups are weaned at around 8 weeks old, start to hunt with their parents at 12 to 16 weeks, and leave their parents' care at about 8 months old.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Kit Fox?

A Kit Fox is a small canid native to North America, particularly found in arid regions like deserts. It's known for its large ears, which help dissipate heat and locate prey underground. The Kit Fox is primarily nocturnal and feeds on rodents, insects, and occasionally fruits and vegetation.

How does the Kit Fox adapt to its desert environment?

The Kit Fox has several adaptations for desert living. Its large ears aid in thermoregulation, while its light-colored fur reflects sunlight to keep it cool. It has keen hearing for detecting prey in the dark and burrows to escape the extreme heat during the day. Additionally, it can survive with minimal water, obtaining moisture from its food.

What is the size and lifespan of a Kit Fox?

Kit Foxes are among the smallest foxes in North America, weighing between 3.5 to 6 pounds and measuring about 12 to 16 inches in length, with a tail adding another 9 to 12 inches. In the wild, they can live up to 7 years, while in captivity, their lifespan may extend to 12 years.

Is the Kit Fox endangered?

The conservation status of the Kit Fox varies by location. While not currently listed as endangered on a federal level, certain populations, especially in California, are considered threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Conservation efforts are in place to protect their habitats and support their numbers.

What do Kit Foxes eat?

Kit Foxes are omnivores with a diet primarily consisting of small mammals like rodents, as well as insects, birds, and reptiles. They are opportunistic feeders and will also consume plant matter such as fruits and seeds when available, which is particularly useful in their arid habitats where water is scarce.

How do Kit Foxes reproduce and raise their young?

Kit Foxes mate between December and February, and after a gestation period of around 50 days, the female gives birth to a litter of 3 to 7 pups. Both parents participate in raising the young, which are born blind and helpless. The pups remain in the den for about 4 months before venturing out with their parents.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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