For work reasons, I have had the need to travel to Chile several times, and during those stays I have always tried to take the opportunity to know something of the country. One of the most special moments occurred on October 8, 2016 in the Andes mountain range, more specifically in the Maule lagoon, where he suddenly appeared, well, them. Without too much fear and with enough curiosity.
The andean fox (Lycalopex culpaeus) is unique to the western side of South America, from Ecuador to the southern tip of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Its preferred territory is located on the western slopes of the Andes, where it has an open field to hunt, but also a deciduous forest to rest and hide.
It is the second largest canid in South America, only surpassed by the wolf of mane or aguará guazú . Both the legs and the head are reddish; the belly, neck and mouth, white; and the back, gray striped black. The tail is very populated with gray hairs, which turn black toward the tip. Specimens from the South American continental zone weigh 5 to 7 kg, but the subspecies of Tierra del Fuego is significantly larger, reaching 14 kg.
During the most part of the year they prefer to live in solitude, and it is at the end of the summer when the pairs are formed for breeding. Their den is preferably in a cave between the rocks, and their surroundings become a pantry, where they hide the result of hunting until they decide to feed.
The gestation period is about two months, and after two more months, the puppies are already strong enough to follow their parents and learn to hunt. The family separates at the end of December, after five months together.
Andean foxes are opportunistic predators, and they feed mainly on rodents, European hares, domestic cattle, quirquinchos, and juvenile guanacos, but also on fruits of native plants and carrion.
In 1915, the European hare was introduced in Chile causing very negative effects on native biodiversity. Fortunately carnivores like this one became natural predators of the hares, helping to control their population and restore the balance to the ecosystems.
Man has become his worst enemy by reducing his natural spaces and depleting the population as a response to his attacks on young livestock to feed. The conclusion is that the species is in danger, although fortunately its population is stable at this time.
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