Did you know?
Bat-eared foxes have 9 different calls, ranging from whistles to chirps, hisses, growls, yaps and woofs.
Early on a winter’s morning in the Karoo or Kalahari, or even in the late afternoon, you may be lucky enough to encounter a bat-eared fox.
They are unmistakable, with their outsized Mickey Mouse ears, robber masks and fluffy tails.
Usually travelling in little groups of 2 or 3, trotting on neat black legs, these nocturnal animals use their massive dish-antennae ears to locate the faint stirrings in the earth that might indicate juicy beetle larvae.
Like aardwolves, also members of the Shy 5 (which also includes the meerkat, the aardvark and the porcupine), these strange foxes mostly eat insects.
They’ll lap up harvester termites wherever they can find them, but also are swift diggers, even through the hardest soil. And they certainly won’t turn down a mouse or a lizard, pouncing on them with relish.
They don’t only dig for their food – they’ll leap acrobatically to snatch flying termites (alates) or grasshoppers, too. And they won’t turn up their cute noses at berries, spiders or millipedes either.
Bat-eared foxes are found in the drier western side of the country, and can be seen almost everywhere in these parts except in very wet and green areas.
They thrive in overgrazed areas, conditions that favour termites – their favourite food. A study has shown that bat-eared foxes typically eat more than 40 000 termites per hectare per year.
An endearing trait is that they generally mate for life, and fathers share parenting duties, looking after the young so that the mother can forage (and sustain her all-important milk production).
Another endearing trait is that bat-eared foxes are particularly playful. In the late afternoons, they’ll come out of their dens to groom 1 another and play.
Then they hunt insects quite intently until around midnight, when they pause for a rest before resuming foraging.
At dawn, they return to their burrows, bask in the rising sun and play again until it gets too hot for them. They frolic with feathers and sticks and each other.