21 October 2010 by Julienne du Toit

Foxtrot in the Fynbos

Willemiena was an orphaned wild puppy so tiny that Johanna and Dave Hodgson of a farm outside Uniondale had no idea what she was when they volunteered to raise her.

The little mite, named in honour of a helpful vet, slept in Johanna’s petite sheepskin slipper and ate ProNutro porridge. The first clue to her identity came when her ears started to grow and grow, as big as velvety radar dishes. The mystery was finally solved when she started pouncing on crickets and moths: Willemiena was a bat-eared fox.

With their fluffy tails, robber masks and satellite dish ears, bat-eared foxes make unusual predators.

They emerge from their burrows at dusk. On neat black legs, they trot past other small animals any other doggy creature would be delighted to devour, and pause only for insects.

With giant ears pricked forwards only centimetres from the still earth, they can hear every twitch and shift of dung beetle grubs, earthworms, beetles and crickets. A few swift scratches and the unwary gogga is exposed. A snuffle, some brisk crunches and then it’s gone. Next?

Most of all, bat-eared foxes love harvester termites, and in the worst kind of way. They lap them up like water. On hot summer evenings, they’ll leap like furry acrobats after flying ants erupting after thunderstorms. Shongololos (millipedes), spiders, scorpions and locusts; bat-eared foxes love ‘em all.

Johanna loved taking Willemiena for walks at dusk. But one day her little fox just didn’t come home. Her fluff-tailed baby had found herself a mate. But Willemiena sometimes brings her beau back to the old homestead. Johanna and Dave peep at them from their window as they dance the foxtrot by moonlight.

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