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What Is a Kit Fox?

Rebecca Cartwright
Rebecca Cartwright

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.

The kit fox preys on small mammals such as the prairie dog.
The kit fox preys on small mammals such as the prairie dog.

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.

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    • The kit fox preys on small mammals such as the prairie dog.
      By: rob francis
      The kit fox preys on small mammals such as the prairie dog.