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The pampas fox (Lycalopex gymnocercus), also known as Azara's fox, or Azara's zorro, is a medium sized zorro, or "false" fox, native to the South American pampas. The alternative common names are references to Spanish naturalist Félix de Azara.
The pampas fox resembles the culpeo or Andean fox in appearance and size, but has a proportionately wider snout, reddish fur on the head and neck, and a black mark on the muzzle. It has short, dense fur that is grey over most of the body, with a black line running down the back and onto the tail, and pale, almost white, underparts. The ears are triangular, broad and relatively large, and are reddish on the outer surface and white on the inner surface. The inner surfaces of the legs are similar in color to the underparts, while the outer surface is reddish on the forelimbs, and grey on the hindlimbs; the lower hindlimb also bears a distinctive black spot. Adults range from 51 to 80 centimetres (20 to 31 in) in body length, and weigh 2.4 to 8 kilograms (5.3 to 17.6 lb); males are approximately 10% heavier than females.
In the northern part of its range, the pampas fox is more richly colored than in the southern part.
Distribution and habitat
The pampas fox can be found in northern and central Argentina, Uruguay, eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. It prefers open pampas habitats, often close to agricultural land, but can also be found in montane or chaco forest, dry scrubland, and wetland habitats. It is most common below 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) elevation, but can inhabit puna grasslands up to 3,500 metres (11,500 ft).
- Lycalopex gymnocercus gymnocercus - northeastern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil
- Lycalopex gymnocercus antiquus - central Argentina
- Lycalopex gymnocercus domeykoanus - first described from northern Chile
- Lycalopex gymnocercus gracilis - first described from western Argentina
- Lycalopex gymnocercus maulinicus - first described from central Chile
In the Spanish-speaking areas of its habitat, the pampas fox is known by the common names of zorro de las pampas or zorro gris pampeano. In Portuguese-speaking Brazil, it is called by the common names of graxaim or sorro.
Behavior and diet
The pampas foxes mostly live a solitary life, but come together as monogamous pairs in the breeding season to raise their young. They are mainly nocturnal, becoming active at dusk, although it may also be active during the day. They den in any available cavity, including caves, hollow trees, and the burrows of viscachas or armadillos. Even when raising young together, adult foxes generally hunt alone, marking their territory by defecating at specific latrine sites. Although there is considerable variation, the home range of a typical pampas fox has been estimated at around 260 hectares (640 acres).
Pampas foxes are more omnivorous than most other canids, and have a varied and opportunistic diet. Their primary prey consists of birds, rodents, hares, fruit, carrion, and insects, although they will also eat lizards, armadillos, snails and other invertebrates, lambs, and the eggs of ground-nesting birds. Their primary predators are pumas and domestic dogs.
If a threatening or larger animal comes near it is known to play dead with its eyes closed and will stay there until the animal leaves.
Pampas foxes breed in the early spring, with the female coming into heat just once each year. After a gestation period of 55 to 60 days, the mother gives birth to a litter of up to eight kits. The young are born between September and December, and are weaned at around two months of age. Females reach sexual maturity in their first year, and animals have lived for up to 14 years in captivity.
Pups will hunt with parents when they are 3 months old. The males bring food to their females who stay at the den with kits.
The main threats to the pampas fox comes from humans hunting them for their fur, to prevent them from attacking livestock, and may be affected by the loss of its natural habitat, although, because they remain common in most areas where it has been studied, the pampas fox is not presently considered a threatened species.
- 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.
- Jiménez et al. (2008). Pseudalopex gymnocercus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Lucherini, M. & Luengos Vidal, E. M. (2008). "Lycalopex gymnocercus (Carnivora: Canidae)". Mammalian Species: Number 820, pp. 1–9. doi:10.1644/820.1.
- Lucherini, M. et al. (2004). Sillero-Zubiri, Hoffman, & Macdonald, ed. Canids: foxes, wolves, jackals, and dogs. Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN. pp. 63–68.
- García, V.B. & Kittlein, M.J. (2005). "Diet, habitat use, and relative abundance of pampas fox (Pseudalopex gymnocercus) in northern Patagonia, Argentina". Mammalian Biology 70 (4): 218–226. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2004.11.019.
- Proyecto Zorros - Zorro gris chico (Pseudalopex gymnocercus) - Ficha Ecológica de la Especie (Spanish)