San Joaquin Kit Foxes are endangered members of the dog family. Its closest relatives are the Swift fox and the Red fox. One of eight subspecies of the Kit fox, it is the smallest member of the dog family in North America. Listed endangered on March 11, 1967, only about 10,000 still exist. With a body length of 14-19 inches, and a height of up to eight inches, this 4-7 pound animal looks like a kitten, explaining its name. Up to twelve years old, is the maximum life span. Resembling a slender dog, it has a sharp snout, pointy ears, and a black-tipped, 8-13 inch tail. Two coats, one tan, and one silver gray are for summer and winter respectively. However, orange flanks, and a gray with a yellowish tinge are colors present in both coats. Creating a 3centimeter long and 2.5centimeter wide footprint is four toes, and a dewclaw on the front foot.
Southern to Central California around the San Joaquin valley is where most of these Kit Foxes are found. Mainly desert, grasslands, marches, and alkali sinklands are landforms in this area, although some foxes venture into the mountains. Providing shelter for the foxes, burrows can reach up to 75feet long and have as many as seven entrances. Building in the deep, loose, desert soil, a fox will occasionally use up to twenty-four burrows in their lifetime. Several chambers, used for storing food and building nests, are present. Every so often a cave or hollow log will be used as shelter.
The San Joaquin Kit Fox’s diet consists of mainly rodents squirrels, birds, reptiles, rabbits, and insects, depending on where they live. Some also eat rats, antelope squirrels, and an occasional chicken from a farm. They are carnivores, although they do munch on vegetation. Drinking water is not in their diet, since their food contains plenty of fluids. Lying in wait by a burrow or in grassland is their method of hunting. At the sight of their prey, or a movement of grass, they pounce. Uneaten food is stored for later.
Lasting about fifty days, is the female fox’s gestation period. Winter or early spring is usually when she gives birth, and has three to six pups. Weighing about four pounds, the young have their eyes closed for nine days. They feed on milk for five weeks before they eat regular food. After four to five months the young begin looking after themselves
Many things have contributed to the endangerment of the San Joaquin Kit Fox. Among them, loss of habitat seems to be the chief problem. Farming and irrigation have caused this problem. Other men caused problems are trappers, secondary poisoning, oil fields, wind turbines, electrocution, and suffocation. However, many things have been done to protect the foxes. Plans such as the San Joaquin Kit Fox Recovery Plan started by the California Fish and Game Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service have helped the foxes. They have done things such as restoring natural habitat, setting aside land, transferring the foxes to better areas, and making steel dens. Improvements like these have helped increase the number of live foxes.
This member of the dog family is in great need of protection. Habitat restoration is the best way to do this. All the remaining land should be made into a state park to keep farmers from destroying it. The San Joaquin Kit Fox is running out of time, and the only way to save it is to act quickly. Otherwise, it will become extinct, like many animals before it. Kit Lyles