Description: The Kit fox is one of the smallest foxes found in North America. Their name, Vulpes Macrotis, literally means "Long-Eared Fox." They have a grayish orange top coat and a white underbelly. This species experiences sexual dimorphism, which simply means the females are slightly smaller than the males, also experiencing smaller cranium sizes. The tail is tipped in black. They usually are not more than 30 inches long (including the tail) and about 10-12 inches tall. In captivity, they live for an average of 12 - 16 years, however, in the wild, it is a much shorter lifespan of 3 - 5 years.
This fox generally ranges from 4 - 10 pounds, and female foxes weigh about 15% less than the males. Closer to suburban and urban areas, the foxes tend to be smaller, while in rural areas only the largest survive due to their natural predators. Such predators include coyotes, wolves, bobcats, and predatory birds. Unfortunately, due the disappearance of many wolf populations, the coyote population has boomed, resulting in the desert Kit Fox dying out. In the past, large coyote populations were attempted to be vanquished by poison bait, which were killing out the Kit Foxes. This has since subsided and now the Kit Fox is coming back in numbers, as is it's cousin, the Swift Fox. It can also run up to 25 miles per hour, and uses it's large ears to hear prey underground.
Diet: This fox dines on almost any small mammal it can find, such as jackrabbits, mice, kangaroo rats, prairie dogs, birds, insects, and eggs of other animals. Urban Kit Foxes have been seen snacking on hot dogs and tacos. Being a desert animal, it has adapted by almost exclusively getting its liquid from its prey. It should be noted that when small mammals are not present and they survive on insects, the likelihood they will rear kits that season is extremely low.
Behavior: Their behavior is similar to a Swift Fox both in the wild and in captivity. In the wild, they often take over dens dug by smaller creatures and dig extra entrances with up to seven exits. One fox may use between two to twenty-four dens a year. These are playful, inquisitive foxes that often come up to cameras and people. Unfortunately it makes them easy targets for hunters. Very rarely do they make noises, but when they do, it consists of a low bark/growl when alarmed or scared, and an angry gekkering when arguing with one another.
In captivity, this fox is one of the easiest to litter or potty pad train, and will often bond to it's owners if spent time with since a kit. They tend to be submissive, getting low to the ground and flattening their ears while wagging their tails, for humans they have bonded to. They also tend to make squeaky submissive noises when seeing their owners, but it should be noted it is nowhere near the high decibel shrieks of a Fennec Fox. These animals will make use of a cat tree, but prefer cat condos and such that give them the feel of an underground den, and they will still try to dig, so a sandbox or something similar is recommended if keeping these guys indoors. Personality-wise, it seems the males are much less trusting than the females. Remember to always use positive reinforcement rather than negative punishment. Foxes should never receive punishment or they will not trust you. Kit foxes tend to lose their baby teeth around 4 months old.
Reproduction: The female and male Kit Fox typically mates for life, but will find a new mate if one dies. Mating season is December - March, and the young are typically born after 48 - 52 days. A litter usually consists of 3 - 5 pups. This is one of the few foxes that the young sometimes stays up to two years with the parents to help rear the new young. At about 10 days, the kits eyes open, and at about 4 weeks, the kits begin to eat solid foods and venture out of the den. By about 8 to 10 weeks the kits learn to hunt and kill small insects around their den, and by about 6 months to a year the kits leave the den (sometimes the young will stay to help raise the next years litter).
Threats and Endangered Subspecies: Unfortunately, this fox has a number of threats that affect its wild numbers. Modern development, hunting, traps meant for coyotes, and roadkill are the primary factors affecting this foxes' recovery.
One subspecies of these foxes are critically endangered, the San Joaquin Kit Fox. These foxes are found almost exclusively in California. They are a protected subspecies and have currently been on the rise within the last 10 - 20 years. This subspecies can be distinguished from a Kit Fox by its generally taller and lankier appearance, and will be shorter furred because of the harsher climates it inhabits. Numerous studies are currently being done to protect this fox, and some researchers are even constructing artificial dens to influence these foxes to produce more and more litters, using PVC pipes and other resources.
Unfortunately, most researchers believe that the San Joaquin Kit Fox will not be removed from the Endangered Species list anytime soon due to human development constantly shrinking their natural habitat.