Darwin’s Fox, Lycalopex fulvipes
Darwin’s fox (Lycalopex fulvipes), also known as Darwin’s Zorro, is a small “false fox” in the Lycalopex genus. It is locally know as Zorro de Darwin or the Zorro Chilote. Its range is small and includes the Nahuelbuta National Park in Chile and Chiloé Island. It is thought that this species prefers a habitat in southern temperate rainforests, a habitat on which it is highly dependent.
Darwin’s fox was first discovered by Charles Darwin in 1834 while he was on the Beagle survey expedition. It was formally described as a subspecies of L. griseus, one of the two species of zorro that inhabited the same range at the time, and given the name Pseudalopex griseus fulvipes. It was found that this species was distinct from any other after its discovery in Nahuelbuta National Park in mainland Chile. It was found to be genetically distinct, and to hold a range that would support its distinct species classification, and was renamed Lycalopex fulvipes.
Darwin’s fox is dark in color, with short legs and wide skull. It is active during the twilight hours and the hours before dawn. The diet of this species varies greatly, including small mammals, insects, reptiles, and invertebrates. When preferred prey is not available, it may consume berries, fruits, amphibians, and carrion.
The total population of Darwin’s fox is thought to be about 250 individuals, with the majority residing on Chiloé Island. On mainland Chile, it resides in the protected Nahuelbuta National Park, but it sometimes leaves that protection to move into more desirable habitats during the winter. The major threats for this species include habitat destruction and disease. Attacks from feral dogs and a bad perception by humans may pose a threat. Darwin’s fox appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Critically Endangered.”
Image Caption: A male Darwin’s fox in western coast of Chiloe, Chile. Credit: Fernando Bórquez, Lin linao, Wikipedia