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NATURAL HISTORY

DESERT KIT FOX } Vulpes macrotis arsipus
FAMILY: Canidae

DESCRIPTION: The desert kit fox is a small fox of slender build, exceptionally large ears, heavy underfur (pale bleached gray on top and whitish on the underside), white hair in the ears, hair on the foot pads and a long tail with a black tip.

HABITAT: Ideal habitat for desert kit foxes are flat, arid desert lands with the fewest roads and dominated by flora such as creosote bushes and white bursage desert scrub or mixed desert salt scrub.

RANGE: In California, the desert kit fox lives in the Mojave and Colorado deserts in inland Southern California from Inyo County to the Mexican border. Desert kit fox range extends into southern Nevada, western Arizona, the southwest tip of Utah and Mexico.

LIFE CYCLE: Kit foxes can live for about seven years in the wild.

THREATS: The desert kit fox is primarily threatened by large-scale industrial energy development, which causes habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. It is also harmed by increased nonnative plant cover, urbanization, mortality from roads and off-road vehicles, increased competition with other canids and depredation, agriculture, grazing, climate change and now canine distemper.

POPULATION TREND: Due to a lack of population monitoring, population trends for the desert kit fox in California are unknown. We do know that the accelerating loss of habitat is likely to be contributing to population declines across the fox’s range, concentrated in regions with the greatest habitat impacts. The desert kit fox population also declined in 2011 and 2012 due to a local die-off from a canine distemper outbreak in a region surrounding the Genesis Solar energy development site in Riverside County.

Photo courtesy NPS