The Cape fox (Vulpes chama) is one of the smallest member of the dog, or Canidae, family. Full-grown adults weigh less than 2.6 kilograms (6 pounds) and are typically about 55 centimeters (22 inches) long, not including the tail.
The only “true fox” in southern Africa, the Cape fox is part of a group of related species that share specific characteristics: a pointed muzzle, distinctive triangular ears, a flatter skull than other canids, and a tail that’s a different fur color at the tip.
The Cape fox’s large ears and excellent hearing help it detect prey and predators. When it forages for food, such as small rodents living underground, it first listens carefully. When it hears prey moving, the Cape fox rapidly digs to reach it. In addition to live prey, it eats a wide variety of things, including wild fruits and vegetables. It may also scavenge for food.
The Cape fox is widespread and fairly common in the central and western regions of southern Africa. In recent decades, it has even expanded its range to the southwest, where it now reaches the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines.
Cape foxes prefer to live in open country, such as grassland, grassland with scattered thickets, and lightly wooded areas. Changes to their habitat due to the growth of arable lands might explain the expansion of the Cape fox’s range. Suited to agricultural settings, they are known to forage in cultivated fields at night.
Farmers trying to protect their livestock purposely—or sometimes accidentally—target Cape foxes. The foxes can be victims of a variety of farmers’ animal control methods, such as leg-hold traps. Their main threat, however, is the illegal but widespread use of agricultural poisons on commercial farms.
These practices are not damaging the overall population, though, and the Cape fox is listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
land used for, or capable of, producing crops or raising livestock.
family of mammals that includes dogs, wolves, and foxes.
to encourage the growth of something through work and attention.
ecosystem with large, flat areas of grasses.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
environmental organization concerned with preserving natural ecosystems and habitats.
noun, plural noun
animals raised for sale and profit.
extended jaws or nose of an animal.
total number of people or organisms in a particular area.
animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.
group of similar organisms that can reproduce with each other.