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Jackal & Fox Facts | Southern Africa Wildlife Guide

This group, also known as “the canids,” comprises smaller, dog-like carnivores such as the side-striped and black-backed jackal and bat-eared fox.

CANID SOCIETY

Canids are very social animals. Their basic social unit is a pair—either permanent or temporary, only staying together for a few seasons. Occasionally, they also match up with young born that year or with some of the previous year’s 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.

BREEDING

Pair formation begins with consorting and mutual grooming some months before actual mating takes place. Behavioral observations indicate that pairs tend to last beyond one season, and at least six years in the case of the black-backed jackal. Bat-eared foxes, on the other hand, pair for life.

The young are born helpless and will stay in the safety of the burrow, suckled by their mother. When they emerge from the den, they continue to suckle, but begin feeding on food that has been regurgitated by the adults. Jackals have “helpers”—usually the young of previous seasons, which assist in caring for the current young. This ensures a higher rate of pup survival.

FEEDING HABITS

Cooperative hunting is important for jackals and their kin, although perhaps is not as sophisticated as the hunting techniques of lions, hyenas and wild dogs. In general, jackals and foxes are opportunistic carnivores. They will feed on almost anything that they can catch or unearth, including small vertebrates, invertebrates of any size, young animals, eggs, carrion and even some fruits. Only bat-eared foxes show a tendency towards specialization, with 80 percent of their diet consisting mainly of termites and other insects.

Scavenging is one of the key elements of a jackal’s search for food. As many as 30 jackals can be seen, often along with vultures, at the fringes of a lion or hyena kill, waiting for a chance to dash in and grab a piece of meat from the carcass.

Photo Credit: Matt Godard
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