Hoary foxes, Lycalopex vetulus, live in the neotropical region of the world. They are found in the Minas Gerais and the Motto Grosso regions in southwestern Brazil.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Hoary foxes are small, with a short muzzle and small teeth. Their fur is grayish in color, with a pale underbody and reddish ears and legs. There is a dark stripe running along the dorsal line and the tip tail. The exterior of the legs is yellow, and there is a black spot above the tail gland. The word "hoary" means having white or silvery color, which refers to the white hairs in the otherwise gray coat of these animals. The fur is short.
Hoary foxes have a small skull, with reduced carnassials and broad molars. Total body length is approximately 60 cm, with an average tail length of about 32 cm. Adult body weights range from 2.7 to 4 kg.
A closely relatd species, L. culpaeus, shows a positive, slight sexual dimorphism, with males being 5% larger than females. This is comparible to values reported for other foxes. Although such dimorphism has not been reported for L. vetulus, this evidnece suggests that slight sexual dimorphism in hoary foxes exists.
Range mass: 2.7 to 4 kg.
Average mass: 3.33 kg.
Range length: 585 to 640 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Hoary foxes live in tall grass steppes and in savanna interspersed with wooded "islands", as well as upland mountain areas in open woodland and brushland. Their habitat extends across the more open terrain of east-central Brazil. They live near cerrado vegetation.
Habitat Regions: terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
Hoary foxes are omnivores, but they appear to be termite specialists. Termites of the genus Syntermes are their main food source and is found in about 89.5% of its feces. They feed on this termite year round. The other foods eaten by hoary foxes include rodents, fruit, grasshoppers, and dung beetles.
The diet of L. vetulus varies seasonally. Termites and small mammals make up the majority of their diet during the dry season, and other insects and fruit make up the majority during the wet season. The unique dental structure of this species allows these animals to eat small items. Their reduced carnassials and broad molars are good for crunching up an insectivorous diet.
Physical features of hoary foxes suggest adaptation to its habitat. A food niche separation mechanism between this species and other wild canids in that region has probably caused the dietary shift in this species to termites, as well as their small muzzel and dentition.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Hoary foxes are generalist predators. They affect populations of small rodents and termites.
There is little information on predation of hoary foxes. However, it is parasitized by the vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus. It should be noted, however, that these bats do not kill the animals upon which they feed, so it isn't a predator in the traditional sense.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Communication in hoary foxes is unknown, but is probably similar to other species of foxes.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Hoary fox lifespans have not been recorded.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
This species is monogamous, as are many fox species.
Mating System: monogamous
Breeding occurs in early fall. The gestation period is about two months, after which time the female gives birth to a litter of 2 to 4 kits. Hoary foxes often use abandoned armadillo dens for rearing their pups.
Breeding interval: Believed to breed once per year.
Breeding season: These animals breed in the early fall.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 4.
Average gestation period: 60 days.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Parental care in this species is not well documented. However, as is the case with most canids, the young are likely to be altricial. They are born in the den and remain there until they are able to venture out on their own. The mother undoubtedly provides her young with milk, grooming, and protection. Although the role of the father has not been documented for this species, in many other foxes, pups are cared for by both males and females. Because this species is monogamous, it is likely that the male plays some role in caring for the young.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
Hoary foxes are listed as data deficient by IUCN. Changes in agricultural practices may result in habitat loss. Deforestation and hunting are also threats to this species.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2004Data Deficient
- 1996Data Deficient(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
- 1996Data Deficient
- 1994Insufficiently Known(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Insufficiently Known(IUCN 1990)
The species is currently listed as Least Concern on the Brazilian Red List (Machado et al. 2005); it is classified as Near Threatened in the Minas Gerais state list.
Hunting and trade in wildlife is generally forbidden in Brazil. There is no specific hunting legislation for Hoary Foxes.
Specimens in Brazilian zoos at the time of writing include: Brasilia (1); São Paulo (1); Ribeirão Preto (1); Belo Horizonte (5); Teresina (1). High mortality rates due to starvation amongst captive cubs are reported. There are no current plans to reintroduce hoary foxes into the wild.
Gaps in Knowledge
Areas for further research include focusing on aspects of behavioural ecology, population status, geographical range, the potential role of disease in population regulation, and their status as potential reservoirs of veterinary (e.g., scabies, distemper) and public health (e.g., leishmaniasis, rabies) pathogens.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Hoary foxes are hosts for many diseases, some of which can be transmitted to domestic dogs, and some to humans. Also, hoary zorros are suspected of killing poultry and are therefore hunted.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (carries human disease); causes or carries domestic animal disease
Close relatives of the hoary fox are fur-bearers, and pelts of this species are likely collected as well. In addition, these animals are sometimes found in zoos.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; research and education; controls pest population
The hoary fox (Lycalopex vetulus), also called raposinha-do-campo (Portuguese for "meadow fox") or the hoary zorro, is a species of zorro or "false" fox endemic to Brazil. Unlike many other foxes, it feeds primarily on small invertebrates such as insects.
The hoary fox has a short muzzle, small teeth, a short coat, and slender limbs. The upper part of the body is grey, and the underside of the body is cream or fawn. The tail is black on the tip with a marked dark stripe along the upper surface, which in male animals, may extend all the way along the back to the nape of the neck. The ears and outside part of the legs are reddish or tawny, and the lower jaw is black. Some melanistic individuals have also been reported.
It is small for a fox, weighing only 3 to 4 kilograms (6.6 to 8.8 lb), with a head and body length of 58 to 72 centimetres (23 to 28 in), and a tail 25 to 36 centimetres (9.8 to 14.2 in). Together with its slender form, the small size of the hoary fox makes it an agile and fast-running animal, while its relatively weak teeth adapt it to feeding on invertebrates, rather than larger prey.
Behaviour and diet
Hoary foxes are nocturnal, and largely solitary outside of the breeding season. It mainly eats insects, especially termites and dung beetles, but also may eat rodents, small birds, and fruit. Individuals have widely varying home ranges, depending on the local environment, but an average of 48 hectares (120 acres) has been reported from pastures in Mato Grosso.
The hoary fox is native to south-central Brazil, although there are some recorded sightings from the north of the country, and Pleistocene fossils are known from Argentina. Although they may be found in more marginal habitats, they usually live in the cerrado, between 90 and 1,100 metres (300 and 3,610 ft) elevation, where there are open woodlands, bushlands, and savannahs that are smooth or scattered with trees.
There are no recognised subspecies.
Females usually give birth to two to four pups in August to September, after a gestation period of around 50 days. The female prepares a den in which to give birth, sometimes using the burrows of other animals. Weaning occurs at around four months of age.
|Wikispecies has information related to: Lycalopex vetulus|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hoary fox.|
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Dalponte, J. & Courtenay, O. (2008). Pseudalopex vetulus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 26 February 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as of least concern
- "Lycalopex vetulus". University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- Dalponte, J.C. (2009). "Lycalopex vetulus (Carnivora: Canidae)". Mammalian Species 847: 1–7. doi:10.1644/847.1.
- Courtenay, O. et al. (2006). "First observations on South America's largely insectivorous canid: the hoary fox (Pseudalopex vetulus)". Journal of Zoology 268 (1): 45–54. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2005.00021.x.