Endangered fox

Chilean fox numbers under 1,000

Darwin’s fox is found in Chile, only. It is darker in color, has shorter legs and skull, and bigger teeth than many foxes. It is thought that Darwin’s fox numbers do not exceed 1,000, and it is listed as endangered by the ICUN. Their numbers are decreasing, and some scientists think the next five to ten years will see a 20% decline in Darwin’s foxes.

The biggest threat is not large, native cats like pumas, but domestic dogs. Some dogs are left to roam by owners who see the small fox as a threat to their poultry, while others do not keep track of them.  Diseases the dogs carry like CDV, (canine distemper virus), can be a death sentence as well.

Darwin’s fox is found only in Southern Chile, and in some areas along the Pacific coast. There is a protected area in Nahuelbuta National Park and Chiloé Island, but in the winter the foxes are forced to seek food outside the park’s confines. Other areas where Darwin’s fox is protected include: Alerce Costero National Park, the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, and the Oncol Park. There is also some evidence there are small numbers of Darwin’s foxes between the Bueno River and Maullín, and near Llanquihue Lake.

Bridge to Chiloé Island

A bridge to Chiloé Island is under construction, which will allow easier access for roaming dogs and pumas. Generally, forest loss and territory degradation, and fragmentation also take their toll. Research concerning Darwin’s fox low numbers has been limited so far, and some of it is extrapolated through camera trap documentation. It was once thought rarer than today because the foxes are hard to find.

Locals do not commonly hunt, or trap, the Darwin’s fox; or keep them as pets. It is thought that conservation efforts have been done with some support from the community. The Chilean Ministry of the Environment has also been working on a Recovery, Conservation, and Management (RECOGE) plan for Darwin’s fox, but it is not completed yet.

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Physiology and behavior

The diet of Darwin’s fox consists of small mammals, fruits, and seeds. They are omnivores and will eat reptiles, crustaceans, and birds as well, and are sometimes forced to become scavengers.

The diminutive Darwin’s fox weighs only two to four kg (4-9 lbs), and is 25 to 35 inches (30-70 cm) long, including tail. Although they are loners and hunt alone, they are not territorial. Their pups, which usually number two or three, are born before Christmas; and are weaned in February.

Chilean fox numbers under 1,000

Darwin’s Fox. California Academy of Sciences. (2017, February 2). https://www.biographic.com/darwins-fox/

South America Darwin’s fox Lycalopex fulvipes. IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group. (2021). https://www.canids.org/species/view/PREKHM366471

Yahnke, CJ; Johnson, WE; Geffen, E; Smith, D; Hertel, F; Roy, MS; Bonacic, CF; Fuller, TK; vanValkenburgh, B; and Wayne, RK, “Darwin’s fox: A distinct endangered species in a vanishing habitat” (1996). CONSERVATION BIOLOGY. 124. 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1996.10020366.x

Lycalopex fulvipes Darwin’s fox. Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan. (2020). https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lycalopex_fulvipes/

Darwin’s fox. Wikipedia. (2021, March 27). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin%27s_fox

Silva-Rodríguez, E.A., Ovando, E., González, D. et al. Large-scale assessment of the presence of Darwin’s fox across its newly discovered range. Mamm Biol 92, 45–53 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mambio.2018.04.003

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