About African Jackals and Foxes

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Jackals and Foxes of South Africa

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This group comprises smaller, dog-like carnivores: Jackals side-striped (Canus adustus), golden (C. aureus) and black backed or silver-backed (C. mesomelas) and the relatively common bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis).

All of them have a striking similarity with domestic dogs in the way they move, lift their legs, raise their hackles, scratch, bury food and roll in something rotten. The senses of Canidae are all very well developed.

Small Canidae are fairly common and may occur in densities of around 10 per square kilometre (a third of a square mile). Jackals frequent open wooded and bushed grassland. Golden jackal and the bat-eared foxes prefer more open and and habitats,from grasslands to semi deserts.

Small Canidae are active 24 hours a day; their tendency to be active at night is reinforced by human persecution. All are vocal to a degree: black-backed jackals yapping is a familiar sound on the plains.

They are prey to larger carnivores and to rock python and large birds of prey, such as martial eagles. Alertness and quickness are their main defences.

They are very sociable animals. The basic social unit is a pair~ither permanent or for a few seasons. Occasionally they pair up with the young of that year or with some of the previous yearís offspring. Several breeding and non-breeding adults form more or less permanent social groups within a home range, but essentially a pair marks and may defend a small territory which includes one or more subterranean dens. Pair formation begins with consorting and mutual grooming some months before actual mating. Behavioural observations indicate that pairs tend to persist beyond one season, at least six years in the black backed jackal, and probably longer. Bat-eared foxes, for example, pair for life.

The young are born helpless, just like dog puppies, and will stay in the safety of the burrow, suckled by the mother. When they emerge from the den, they are and begin to be fed on regurgitated adults.

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