Kit fox

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Kit fox
Vulpes macrotis mutica sitting.jpg

Kit fox ( Vulpes macrotis )

Order : Predators (Carnivora)
Subordination : Canine (Caniformia)
Family : Dogs (Canidae)
Tribe : Real foxes (Vulpini)
Genre : Vulpes
Type : Kit fox
Scientific name
Vulpes macrotis
Merriam , 1888

The kit fox ( Vulpes macrotis ) is a fox that lives in drier areas in western North America . It can be distinguished from the closely related Swift fox , which also occurs in North America, by its larger ears and dark stripes on the back. Historically, the fox was primarily hunted for its fur ( kit fox fur ); today, the change in habitat represents the greatest threat to the species.


The kit fox is one of the small foxes in North America. Noticeable are its large ears, which are slightly larger than the closely related Swift Fox and are closer together. It also has a wider head, a smaller eye relief and a narrower snout. Its eyes are more slit-shaped and less round than the Swift Fox. It becomes 73 to 84 cm long with the 26 to 32 cm long tail and can reach a weight of 1.4 to 2.7 kg. The fur is short and light gray, the head and sides of the body yellowish gray, the outside of the legs brownish yellow, the belly and the inside of the legs yellowish white. The tip of the tail is black. The fur is thick between the balls of the feet.

Distribution area


The kit fox lives in deserts and other arid areas in western North America. In the United States, its range extends from southern California through western Colorado and western Texas north to southern Oregon and Idaho . In Mexico it occurs on the Baja California peninsula across the north of the states of Sonora and Chihuahua to western Nuevo León and south to northern Zacatecas .

Way of life

Kit foxes can be found in arid and semi-arid regions, including bushy deserts, the chaparral , salt flats and grasslands. Loose soil is required to build the building in it. Agricultural areas, particularly orchards, are also being settled and, to a lesser extent, urbanized areas. It was found at altitudes of 1900 m, but generally avoids gradients of more than five percent.

Kit foxes dig several burrows in the ground in their territory and also use the burrows of other animals, e.g. B. of prairie dogs ( Cynomys ) and kangaroo rats ( Dipodomys ), of ground squirrels ( Spermophilus ) and silver badgers ( Taxidea taxus ), or structures built by humans.

Kit foxes are mainly active in the evening and at night and, depending on the season, feed on all kinds of small prey, especially rodents (kangaroo rats and prairie dogs) and hare-like ( donkey hares , Lepus californicus ), cottontail rabbits ( Sylvilagus ), but also birds, reptiles and insects are captured. He also eats carrion, plants only very rarely. Only prickly pears are consumed every now and then.

The predators that hunt kit foxes include the coyote ( Canis latrans ), the bobcat ( Lynx rufus ), the red fox ( Vulpes vulpes ), the silver badger ( Taxidea taxus ), striped ( Mephitis ) and spotted skunks ( Spilogale gracilis ) and feral Domestic cats.


Kit fox with cubs in the San Joaquin Valley

During the breeding season, the kit fox is monogamous but does not mate with the same partner every year. The mating season of the kit fox is in the winter months and extends from mid-December to January. The female gives birth to one to seven young animals from mid-February to mid-March after a gestation period of 49 to 55 days. The success of reproduction depends on the age of the females and the food available. The young foxes are weaned at around eight weeks of age, start looking for food with their parents at three to four months and are completely independent after five to six months.


Phylogenetic classification of the genus Vulpes

 Cape fox ( V. chama )


 Bengal fox ( V. bengalensis )


 Pale fox ( V. pallida )

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 Afghan fox ( V. cana )


 Fennek ( V. zerda )


 Kit fox ( V. macrotis )


 Arctic fox ( V. lagopus )


 Steppe fox ( V. corsac )


 Tibetan fox ( V. ferrilata )


 Red fox ( V. vulpes )


 Rüppellfuchs ( V. rueppelli )

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The first scientific description of the kit fox comes from Clinton Hart Merriam in 1888. Today it is classified in the genus Vulpes along with eleven other species . On the basis of morphological and molecular biological data, it was developed by Binninda-Emonds et al. 1999 as sister species of the arctic fox ( V. lagopus classified) and together with it a taxon from steppe fox ( V. corsac ) Tibetfuchs ( V. ferrilata ), red fox ( V. vulpes ) and Rüppell's Fox ( V. rueppelli ) as a sister group compared.

Besides the nominate form Vulpes macrotis macrotis , no further subspecies are distinguished.

For a long time it was controversial whether the kit fox and the swift fox ( Vulpes velox ) living to the east are two different species or whether they have to be placed in one species. Protein electrophoresis and older morphometric data (comparison between different body measurements) suggest one species, while more recent morphometric studies and comparison of mitochondrial DNA suggest two separate species. The genetic distance between both species and the arctic fox ( Vulpes lagopus ) is just as great as their distance from one another. Both species are very similar in appearance and in their habitat requirements. Their habitat is separated from each other by the Rocky Mountains. A small hybridization zone about 100 km wide exists in eastern New Mexico and western Texas.

Threat and protection

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classifies the species as “Least Concern”, as an acute threat to the stocks is not assumed. In Mexico, however, it is considered vulnerable.

supporting documents

  1. a b O.RP Binninda-Emonds, JL Gittleman, A. Purvis: Building large trees by combining phylogenetic information: a complete phylogeny of the extant carnovora (Mammalia). Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 74, 1999; Pp. 143-175.
  2. a b Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder (eds.): Vulpes macrotis  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /   in Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed).
  3. K. Resmer: Vulpes velox , Animal Diversity Web . Accessed February 21, 2016
  4. a b Vulpes macrotis in the endangered Red List species the IUCN 2008. Posted by: IUCN / SCC Canid Specialist Group (North America Regional Section), 2008. Accessed April 3, 2012 found.


  • Roland W. Kays & Don E. Wilson: Mammals of North America. Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-6911-4092-8
  • IUCN / SSC Canid Specialist Group: Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Pp. 105–109 PDF ( Memento from March 1, 2012 in the Internet Archive )

Web links

Commons : Kitfuchs  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files