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Overview

Distribution

The Argentine gray fox is wide spread throughout Patagonia and western Argentina. It was introduced to Tierra del Fuego in 1951 to control the European rabbit. This area now has the highest population density. These foxes are also found on several small islands off the western coast of West Falkland, in Chile, southern Peru, and are believed to exist in central Peru. They live on both sides of the Andes Mountains (23° S to 55° S). Both hunting, legal and illegal, and the Lycalopex culpaeus may limit the gray fox’s distribution, even though their territories do not overlap.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore nd london: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • The World Conservation Union, Species Survival Commission, Canid Specialist Group, 1998. "Gray Zorro" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://www.canids.org/SPPACCTS/dgriseus.htm.
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Range Description

Widespread in plains and mountains on both sides of the Andes, from northern Chile (17°S) down to Tierra del Fuego (54°S). In Argentina, they occur in the western and southern arid and semi-arid regions of the country, from ca. 23°S (Jujuy and Salta) to Tierra del Fuego, and from the eastern foothills of the Andes mountain range to meridian 66°W, reaching the Atlantic coast (ca. 63°W) south from Río Negro. Present in the following provinces: Jujuy (Jayat et al. 1999), Salta (Mares et al. 1996), Tucumán, Catamarca, Santiago del Estero, La Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza, west of San Luis, Neuquén, west of La Pampa, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego (Osgood 1943; Olrog and Lucero 1981).

Widespread in Chile from the I Administrative Region (Atacama Province) in the north, south to the Strait of Magellan (XII Administrative Region, Magallanes Province) and Tierra del Fuego (Medel and Jaksic 1988; Marquet et al. 1993), and from the western foothills of the Andes mountain range to the Pacific coast (71–73°W). They were introduced to Tierra del Fuego in 1951 in an attempt to control rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) infestation (Jaksic and Yáñez 1983).

Other populations have been reported to exist in some of the southern Atlantic islands, including Malvinas/Falkland (Olrog and Lucero 1981), but this requires confirmation. Their presence in Peru is uncertain.
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Physical Description

Morphology

The coat is brindled gray, the underparts paler grays. The head is a rust color flecked with white and a black spot on the chin. The Argentine gray fox has large ears and a long and bushy tail. The molars are well developed, and the carnassials are relatively short. This fox can grow up to 2 to 4 kg. Its shoulder height is 40 to 45 cm, decreasing as latitude increases from 33° S to 54° S. The head-body length is 42 to 68 cm, and the tail length is from 30 to 36 cm.

Range mass: 2 to 4 kg.

Range length: 42 to 68 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Yahnke, C. 1995. Metachromism and the Insight of Wilfred Osgood: Evidence of Common Ancestory for Darwin’s Fox and the Sechura Fox. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 68: 459-467.
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Ecology

Habitat

Atacama Desert Habitat

One of the habitats of this species is the Atacama Desert, along the northwest coast of Chile. This desert is essentially bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west.extending nearly 1600 kilometres and reaching a maximum width of 180 km. In many areas rainfall has never been recorded, and the Atacama is considered one of the driest deserts in the world. Consequently, an extremely arid, almost barren, landscape predominates. Despite the aridity of this desert, some cacti (Eulychnia), perennials (Nolana), and mesquite (Prosopis) occur in basins where occasional water accumulation occurs. Relatively few animal species have adapted to this arid environment and therefore, faunal diversity and density is extremely low, while endemism is high. Even bacteria are scarce, and in many portions of the desert insects and fungi are absent. While bacterial occurrences are even scarce compared to other deserts, there are a number of extremophiles and lithic microbial communities which specialize in exploiting minerals such as dolomite, quartz, gypsum, halite and limestone.

Few fauna have adapted to successfully inhabit this extremely arid habitat. Only 120 vertebrate taxa are found in the ecoregion. There are approximately 550 species of vascular plants representing 225 genera and 80 families in the lomas formations. The most diverse families are the Asteraceae, Nolanaceae, Cactaceae, Boraginaceae, and Apiaceae. Plant endemism is very high (in excess of 60 percent). Three cacti are endemic to the northern part of the Atacama Desert; in particular these endemic plants include Eulychnia iquiquensis  and Copiapoa spp. Endemic shrubs of the ecoregion include Berberis litoralis, Anisomeria littoralis, Atriplex taltalensis, Adesmia viscidissima, Croton chilensisNicotiana solanifolia, Teucrium nudicaule, Monttea chilensis, Stevia trifida, Senecio almeidae and Gutierrezia taltalensis. Endemic plants near Tocopilla are Malesherbia tocopillana, Mathewsia collina and Nolana tocopillensis.

Several mammalian species are found in the Atacama Desert, including the minute Near Threatened Atacama Myotis (Myotis atacamensis); Elegant Fat-tailed Opossum (Thylamys elegans); Manso Grass Mouse (Akodon olivaceus); Osgood's Leaf-eared Mouse (Phyllotis osgoodi); Darwin's Leaf-eared Mouse (Phyllotis darwini) and the South American Gray Fox (Pseudalopex griseus).

Several birds, such as the Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis) and the Blue-black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina) visit the lomas at the onset of austral winter, when many insect pupae hatch. The lomas in bloom are also visited by several species of hummingbirds (e.g., Rhodopis spp., Myrtis spp., and Thaumastura spp.). There are six restricted species of birds found in the north of this ecoregion and the Sechura Desert ecoregion; these birds include the Chilean Woodstar (Eulidia yarrellii), Thick-billed Miner (Geositta crassirostris), White-throated Earthcreeper (Upucerthia albigula), Cactus Canastero (Asthenes cactorum), Slender-billed Finch (Xenospingus concolor, and Tamarugo Conebill (Conirostrum tamarugense). The Andean Condor is also found here in the Atacama. The Chilean Woodstar, Slender-billed Finch, and Tamarugo Conebill are examples of threatened species occurring in the ecoregion.

The South American Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus gerrhopygus), found only in southern Peru and northern Chile, occurs in the Atacama Desert. Near-endemic amphibians are represented by the Vallenar toad (Rhinella atacamensis), which occurs in and near oases and streams year-around. Breeding occurs in permanent pools (including livestock water tanks), streams and rivers.Eggs are laid in long strings, and the larvae develop where these were laid. R. atacamensis achieves is highest altitude occurrence at 2574 metres near Mostazal.

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The Argentine gray fox likes to live in lowlands and foothills of coastal mountain ranges, plains, pampas, deserts, low open grasslands and forest edge habitats. They live on shrubby sandy soils.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; scrub forest

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The Chilla occurs in steppes, "pampas" (grasslands), and "matorral" (scrublands) (Olrog and Lucero 1981). They generally inhabit plains and low mountains, but they have been reported to occur as high as 3,500–4,000 m (see Marquet et al. 1993; Jayat et al. 1999). Although Chillas occur in a variety of habitats, they prefer shrubby open areas. In central Chile, they hunt more commonly in flat, open patches of low height (1–2 m) scrub than in areas with dense vegetation or ravines. Yet, they do visit ravines, apparently in search of fruit (Jaksic et al. 1980; Jiménez et al. 1996). In southern Chile (Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta), Chillas also prefer open areas to those more dense patches where Darwin's Foxes occur (Jaksic et al. 1990; Jiménez et al. 1990; Medel et al. 1990). Durán et al. (1985) found that in Chilean Patagonia, their typical habitat was the shrubby steppe composed of "coirón" (Festuca spp., Stipa spp.) and "ñires" (Nothofagus antarctica), and that burning and destruction of forests in order to augment the land for sheep farming seems to have been advantageous for Chillas. A similar preference was detected in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, where 58% of the 12 monitored individuals used matorral shrubland or Nothofagus thicket habitat within their home ranges, more than was expected (Johnson and Franklin 1994b). In the north-eastern Mendoza desert (Argentina), these foxes seem to prefer the lower levels of the shrubby sand dunes that characterize the landscape or the valleys among dunes rather than their higher sections (R. González del Solar, unpubl.).

Chillas are tolerant to very different climatic regimes from remarkably hot and dry areas, such as the Atacama coastal desert in northern Chile (less than 0 mm average annual rainfall, 22°C mean annual temperature), to the humid regions of the temperate Valdivian forest (2,000 mm average annual rainfall, 12°C mean annual temperature) and the cold Tierra del Fuego (ca. 400 mm average annual rainfall, 7°C mean annual temperature).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Argentine gray foxes are omnivorous and diet changes seasonally. European rabbits and birds are preferred, as well as fruits, seeds, berries, small mammals, insects, scorpions, lizards, frogs, and bird eggs. Sheep predation is minimal and usually only eaten as carrion. In the winter months, carrion seems to become the most important food source, along with rodents and armadillos. (Johnson,1992; Puig, 1997; Jaksic, 1983) In areas of human habitation, L. griseus may take domestic poultry (Nowak, 1999).

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; eggs; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

  • Jaksic, F., J. Yanez. 1983. Rabbit and Fox Introductions in Tierra del Fuego: History and Assessment of the Attempts at Biological Control of the Rabbit Infestation. Biological Conservation, 26: 367-374.
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Associations

The Argentine gray fox helps to control small mammal and bird populations. It also disperses seeds by eating the fruit then defecating the seeds.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation on this species has not been described in the literature.

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Known prey organisms

Pseudalopex griseus preys on:
non-insect arthropods
Arthropoda
Insecta
Amphibia
Reptilia
Aves
Mammalia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Cycle

See Reproduction.

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Life Expectancy

Data on lifespan for L. griseus are not available. However an individual from a congeneric species, Lycalopex gymnocercus, lived for 13 years and 8 months in capivity.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 10.9 years (captivity) Observations: One captive animal lived 10.9 years (Richard Weigl 2005). Nonetheless, the maximum longevity of this species could be underestimated.
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Reproduction

Studies of L. griseus in Patagonia indicate that mating is monogamous, with a mated pair maintaining their territory throughout the year. Occasionally, a second female was present on the territory, and assisted in rearing the young, although she did not produce young herself.

Mating System: monogamous ; cooperative breeder

The Argentine gray fox mates from August through September and the pups are born by October. The gestation period is 53 to 60 days and the litter size is 2 to 6 pups. Time of weaning is not known, but when the pups are 4 to 6 weeks, they start to leave the den with their mothers. By January, they go out by themselves to hunt for small mammals and arthropods. Age of sexual maturity is about 1 year.

Breeding interval: Argentine gray foxes breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from August through October.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 6.

Range gestation period: 53 (high) days.

Average gestation period: 60 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Both males and females are active in caring for the young. As in all mammals, the female nurses the young, although there are not good data on lactation in this species. In general, canid young are altricial. The male helps to maintain the territory where prey are obtained, and, as in other members of the genus Lycalopex , may help to provide food for the growing family. Occasionally, an additional female is present on the territory, and she apparently also assists in rearing the young.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning

  • Johnson, W. 1992. Patagonia's Little Foxes. Natural History, 101: 26-28.
  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore nd london: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • The World Conservation Union, Species Survival Commission, Canid Specialist Group, 1998. "Gray Zorro" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://www.canids.org/SPPACCTS/dgriseus.htm.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lycalopex griseus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

The Argentine gray fox is protected by law in Chile but enforcementof this law is lax. No hunting or skin trade has been permitted since 1929 in some areas, although fox skins are still exported through Chile via Argentina. The Argentine Wildlife Board (Direccion Nacional de Fauna Silvestre) has classified the species as endangered. Hunting is banned year-round in some areas.

In Rio Nego, Patagonia, population levels have been stable since 1983, in spite of heavy harvesting for furs. Deep snowfall can depress population levels, but recovery is usually speedy.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Jiménez, J.E., Lucherini, M. & Novaro, A.J.

Reviewer/s
Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
The Chilla is widespread in plains and mountains on both sides of the Andes in Chile and Argentina. Populations in the southern half of Argentina, where habitat is more favourable, are essentially stable. Their status in the northern half of the country is unknown. In Chile, they are considered frequent in the north, scarce in central Chile, and common-abundant in the south. Despite having been overexploited for their fur in the past, Chillas seem not to be decreasing in number. The species is not considered threatened at present.

History
  • 2004
    Least Concern
  • 1994
    Vulnerable
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 1990)
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Population

Population
In Argentina, Olrog and Lucero (1981) considered chillas to be "locally common". In the latter country, relative abundance of chillas has been evaluated mainly through the scent stations technique. Autumn data collected in Pilcaniyeu (Río Negro) from 1983 to 1989, as well as winter data collected in Patagonia from 1989 to 2000 (A. Novaro and M. Funes unpubl.) and in north-eastern Mendoza from 1993 to 1997 (F. Videla et al. unpubl., R. González del Solar et al. unpubl.), suggest that populations are essentially stable in the southern half of Argentina where habitat is more favourable. They are reported to have expanded their distribution in Tierra del Fuego since their introduction (A. Novaro pers. comm.). J. Bellati (pers. comm.) estimated in 1996 an ecological density of one chilla/km² in Tierra del Fuego. Their status in the northern half of the country is unknown.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
The main threat to Chilla populations in the past was commercial hunting. However, inferences on the historical rate of Chilla extraction are difficult, since official pelt-export reports apparently have conflated data corresponding to different species. Hunting intensity has apparently declined in recent years. Illegal trapping still occurs in some regions of Chile and Argentina, mainly related to controlling predation on small livestock and apparently not as intensively as in the past (A. Iriarte pers. comm.). The species is hunted for its pelt in Argentina and Chile.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Included in CITES – Appendix II (as Lycalopex griseus).

Present in at least six protected areas in central west Argentina. In Chile, the secies is present in 30 Wildlife Protected Areas (WPA) from a total of 49 surveyed. However, 40% of those 30 WPAs are smaller than the 115 km² needed to sustain a minimum viable population (500 individuals). Estimates of local extinctions in WPAs from central Chile reach 50% (see Simonetti and Mella 1997). The most important Chilean WPAs in which Chillas occur include: Parque Nacional Lauca, Parque Nacional Puyehue, Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

Resolution 144/83 of the former National Secretary of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development of Argentina categorises this species as "In Danger". Chillas are totally protected in Mendoza, Catamarca, and San Luis, while in the continental provinces of Patagonia and in Tierra del Fuego, hunting and fur trading are legal (A. Novaro and M. Funes pers. comm.).

In Chile, the passing of the 1972 furbearer's protection law appears to have curtailed the exports of pelts (Iriarte and Jaksic 1986, Iriarte 2000). Currently, all Chilean populations are protected by law N° 19,473 [1996], except for those from Tierra del Fuego (XII Region), where a maximum of 10 individuals/day/hunter are allowed from May 1 to July 31 (A. Iriarte pers. comm.).

Efforts are being made in Argentina to concentrate the relevant biological, legal and commercial information on the species in an attempt to design a plan for sustainable use and conservation (A. Novaro and M. Funes pers. comm.).

Chillas occur in many zoos of Argentina and Chile, but details of breeding in captivity are not known.

The need for a deeper understanding of the biology of the Chilla has been repeatedly emphasized by Argentinean as well as by Chilean studies (e.g., Johnson and Franklin 1994a; González del Solar et al. 1997). Reliable information is needed especially with regard to those biological aspects required for population management leading to sustainable use and conservation: population-dynamics, incidence of parasites and other diseases, and research on the role of chillas in small-livestock mortality.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Local people believe that these foxes prey upon sheep and domestic fowl, although scat analysis indicates that such predation is probably not common.

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There is an important pelt trade in South America. According to CITES, from 1980 to 1983, 381,000 fox skins were exported, 98% of which were purported to have originated in Argentina. Over 7,000 skins were recorded as being exported from Chile, despite the species being protected in that country. Most exports were made to West Germany (72%), Switzerland (7.2%), and Italy (4.4%).

As noted previously, these carnivorous foxes eat both European rabbits and small rodents. They are therefore probably important in limiting pest populations.

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population

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Wikipedia

South American gray fox

A chilla in Pan de Azucar National Park in the coast of Atacama Desert.

The South American gray fox (Lycalopex griseus), also known as the Patagonian fox, the chilla, or the grey zorro, is a species of zorro, the "false" foxes.

Range and habitat[edit]

The South American gray fox is found in the Southern Cone of South America, particularly in Argentina and Chile. Its range comprises a stripe, both sides of the Andes Mountain Range between parallels 17ºS (northernmost Chile) and 54ºS (Tierra del Fuego).

In Argentina, this species inhabits the western semiarid region of the country, from the Andean spurs (ca. 69ºW) to meridian 66ºW. South from the Río Grande, the distribution of the fox widens reaching the Atlantic coast. In Chile, it is present throughout the country. Its presence in Peru has been mentioned; to date, however, there has been no confirmation of it. The South American gray fox was introduced to the Falkland Islands in the late 1920s early 1930s and is still present in quite large numbers on Beaver and Weddell Islands plus several smaller islands.

The South American gray fox occurs in a variety of habitats, from the warm, arid scrublands of the Argentine Monte and the cold, arid Patagonian steppe to the forest of southernmost Chile.

Description[edit]

The South American gray fox is a small South American canid, weighing 2.5–4 kg (5–9 pounds), and measuring 43–70 cm (17–27 inches) in length.

Diet[edit]

Its diet consists mainly of rodents, birds, and rabbits. Also scorpions, bird eggs, lizards, frogs.

Reproduction[edit]

It breeds in late austral fall, around March. After a gestation period of 2 months, 2–4 kits are born in a den. Not much else is recorded about its lifestyle.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Jiménez et al. (2008). Pseudalopex griseus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 6 May 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  • González del Solar, R. and J. Rau (2004) Pseudalopex griseus. In C. Sillero-Zubiri, M. Hoffman and D. Macdonald (eds.) Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Gland, Switzerland, IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group. Pp. 56–63. (Available at http://www.canids.org/species/Chilla.pdf)
  • IUCN (2004): Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs
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