Mammalian Biology

, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 64–70 | Cite as

Social organization, survival, and dispersal of cape foxes (Vulpes chama) in South Africa

  • Jan F. KamlerEmail author
  • David W. Macdonald
Original Investigation


We monitored 20 cape foxes (Vulpes chama) to determine the social organization, survival, and dispersal of this species on two sites in South Africa from 2005 to 2008. Cape foxes were socially monogamous and territorial, with annual home ranges of mated pairs (n = 8) overlapping 80% on average, compared to a mean overlap of 3% between foxes in adjacent ranges. At least 2 pairs remained associated for >1 breeding season, and both sexes exhibited strong site fidelity, as home ranges in consecutive years overlapped 58-98%. Members of mated pairs never foraged together, however they used the same or nearby (<100 m apart) day rests 81% of the time when pups were 0–4 months of age, but only 28% of the time during other months of the year. Dispersal was male biased, as all juvenile males (n = 6) dispersed when 9–11.5 months old, whereas 3 of 4 juvenile females remained philopatric as either breeders or non-breeding associates. At least 6 foxes bred as yearlings (3 F, 3 M), indicating cape foxes have high reproductive potential. Two adult females maintained their territories after their mates died, whereas two adult males dispersed soon after their mates died, indicating cape foxes likely have a female-based social organization. Annual survival was 0.64, and predation from larger carnivores, primarily black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas), was responsible for 71% of mortalities. Our results provided empirical support for previous hypotheses regarding the relationship between body size and life-history patterns in Canidae, as several ecological parameters of cape foxes were similar to that of other small (<6 kg) canid species, especially Vulpes species inhabiting arid and semi-arid environments.


Female-based social organization Home range overlap Mortality Pair bonding Sex-biased philopatry 


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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of ZoologyOxford University, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney HouseTubney, AbingdonUnited Kingdom

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