The National Animal of Paraguay
The Pampas Fox
The pampas fox is native to the South American pampas. It is also known as Azara’s zorro or Azara’s fox, a name it gets from the Spanish naturalist, Felix de Azara. The pampas fox and the bare-throated bellbird are the national fauna symbols of Paraguay. There are five subspecies recognised at the present time. Its scientific name is Pseudalopex gymnocercus.
This animal frequents northern and central Argentina, Uruguay, parts of Bolivia, Paraguay and southern Brazil.
For ease of hunting, the fox prefers open habitats and tall grass plains but it is also found in montane areas or chaco forest, dry scrubland and even wetland habitats. It is not averse to staying near agricultural areas. It is most common below 1,000 metres but can be seen in elevations of 3,500 metres.
Where the pampas fox occupies the same range as the crab-eating fox, the latter would mostly inhabit wooded areas.
The pampas fox ranges from 51 to 80 cms in length (average 62 cm with a tail length of 34cm) and weighs 2.4 to 8 kg with males being slightly heavier than females.
The short, dense fur is grey over most of the body although the fur on the head and neck may be reddish. There is a black mark on the muzzle and a black dorsal stripe down the backbone and long, bushy tail. The underparts are lighter in colour. The ears are red on the outside and white on the inner surfaces. There is a distinctive black spot on the lower hind leg. The triangular ears are relatively large and broad.
Pampas foxes only come together to breed and raise their young. They stay with the same partner during this time. They are mainly but not always nocturnal. They are more likely to be active during daylight hours if there are few human inhabitants in the area.
The fox generally hunts alone even when raising its young with its mate. They use caves, hollow trees or deserted burrows of other animals as dens. They mark their territories by having specific latrine sites where they defecate regularly.
The Pampas fox is omnivorous and opportunistic. Its preference is for birds, hares, rodents and carrion but they also eat fruit, insects, lizards, lambs, eggs, armadillos and invertebrates such as snails.
Females come into oestrus once a year. Gestation is 55 to 60 days and a litter of up to eight cubs (usually 3 to 5) may be born between September and December. Weaning takes place at around two months. Males bring food to the female and litter at the den. At three months of age, the cubs begin to hunt with the parents. Females are sexually mature in their first year. In captivity, the pampas fox may live to 14 years of age.
The main threats to the pampas fox are pumas and domestic dogs. It is also hunted for its skins and killed because of the belief that it will attack livestock. It is relatively tolerant of human disturbance and has adapted to changes to its natural habitat brought about by extensive cattle breeding and agricultural pursuits.
It is not considered ‘at risk’ and is listed by the IUCN as ‘of least concern’.