The Culpeo is a
species of medium size fox that are found only along the entire southern
coastal borderline and the adjacent
regions of South America. The population of this fox is stable, while they are widely distributed across their range in
several names including Patagonian Fox, Patagonian Red Fox, Common Andean Fox,
Andean Wolf, and Fuegian Fox.
Size: Total length can be anything between 95 and 132 cm (37 to 52 in).
Weight: The average weight of the male is 11.4 kg (25 lb), whereas the females are around 8.4 kg (19 lb).
Fur/Hair/Coat: The body fur has a grizzled appearance, with the neck and shoulders being mostly tawny to rufous in coloration, and the upper back part being dark.
Tail: Like other
fox species, culpeos have bushy tails
with a length of about 32 to 44 cm (13 to 17 in).
Sexual Dimorphism: There are no striking visual similarities between the sexes, except that the females are typically smaller than their male counterparts.
The maximum lifespan of the culpeo
fox is 11 years in the wild.
The fox is native to the western regions of South America, starting from Ecuador to Peru to southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
Culpeos are found in temperate, tropical and terrestrial regions that include a variety of biomes including deserts and dunes, savanna, grasslands, forests including scrub and rainforests, chaparral, and mountains.
Classification of Species
The culpeos are found
in six distinct subspecies, viz.:
Like most other foxes, the culpeo
is a solitary species, except during the mating and breeding seasons, when they
move around with their mates, as also, associate with the young ones. Their activity
level has been recorded to highest from summer to autumn.
Interestingly, the activity patterns of these canids vary from
region to region. Those that live in Argentina, the Chilean desert, Magallanes
Culpeos, and highland Peru are nocturnal, while the population in central Chile
they are diurnal or crepuscular.
The culpeos opportunistic
predators and take a variety of prey. The population from the Patagonia region have
been noted moving around 7 km, while those from the deserts of northern Chile
have been seen moving almost 21 km – almost treble.
The ways of communication of these foxes have not been studied in the wild. However, in captivity, they have been seen making mixed growls and screaming noises. These foxes have also been seen communicating through body scents, postures, physical cues, and sounds.
Technically speaking, these canids are omnivorous and consume both animals, as well as plant matters, including a variety of fruits. However, their primary diet is meat, as they hunt down rabbits, birds, hares, lizards, insects, and eggs of different reptiles and birds. They have also been seen feasting upon carrion.
Reproduction & Life Cycle
There are very little
information and data available regarding the mating system of these animals. It
is thought that these animals are
monogamous since their close cousins, the South American gray fox (Lycalopex griseus) and the Darwin’s fox (Lycalopex fulvipes), mate and bond with a single partner, and
defend a particular territory together.
The vixens are monstrous and go into heat (begin the estrus
cycle) between August and October. The male foxes produce sperm between June and
mid-October. After a period of successful mating, the females enter into a gestation
period for 55 to 60 days before giving birth to 2 – 5 cubs in a den (average
litter size being 5.2).
The newborn babies are born naked, with the eyes closed, and
weigh around 170 g on an average. Both the father and the mother take care of
the babies, beyond which, there is no data. However, a second female has been seen assist in taking care of the
The weaning of the baby culpeos
occurs when they are around two months old. The juveniles attain their full
size by the time they are seven months. Sexual maturity of the new generation
of offspring takes place after about a year.
The color pattern of these foxes distinctly coincides with the hues of the sand dunes of the desert. This helps them safely camouflage in the desert sand.
Other than this, the culpeos
do not possess any complex anti-predator adaptations since they have very few
natural enemies within their range.
The only known enemy of the fox is puma; however, they are attacked very rarely. However, humans have been hunting on them for fur, since ages.
The IUCN 3.1 has enlisted these foxes as ‘LC’ (Least Concern)
because of their current static population.
Culpeos are considered important in the process of germination of seeds, while they consume fruits and disperse the seeds, especially those of peumo (Cryptocarya alba) and Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle). Records say that these seeds germinate at higher rates if defecated by these foxes.