Spanish: zorro de Darwin, zorro de Chiloé; zorro chilote; Indigenous names: Huilliche: payneguru (i.e. blue fox)(Chile).
Darwin's Fox is endemic to Chile. It has a disjunct distribution with two populations: one found in the forests of Chiloé Island (42°S, 74°W), and another on the coastal mountains in Nahuelbuta National Park of mainland Chile (37°45'S, 73°00'W).
Vila et al. (2004) found evidence for what may be a third population at Punta Chanchan, north of Valdivia.
Habitat and Ecology:
Darwin's Fox is generally believed to be a forest obligate species found only in southern temperate rainforests (Jaksic et al. 1990; Medel et al. 1990). Recent research on Chiloé, based on trapping and telemetry data on a disturbance gradient, indicates that, in decreasing order, foxes use old-growth forest followed by secondary forest followed by pastures and openings (Jiménez 2000). Although variable among individuals, about 70% of their home ranges comprised old-growth forest. However, compared with the amount available, foxes preferred secondary forest and avoided old growth. Selection of openings varied among individuals. The forest is of Valdivian type, comprising a few native conifers and several species of broad-leaved evergreen species, and dominated by fruit-bearing trees of the Mirtaceae family. This forest is dense, with different strata and very moist all year round (Jiménez et al. 1990).
On the Pacific coast of Chiloé, Darwin's Fox lives in a fragmented environment of coastal sand dunes mixed with dense evergreen forest. On the northern part of the island, Darwin's Fox uses a relatively flat, but fragmented landscape of broad-leaf forest and dairy cow pastures. Research on the mainland population supports the notion of the species using primarily dense forest (Jaksic et al. 1990; Jiménez et al. 1990). Capture and telemetry data indicate that animals are found in dense Araucaria-Nothofagus forest, open Nothofagus forest and open pasture with decreasing frequency (McMahon et al. 1999). The forest comprises mainly monkey-puzzle trees (Araucaria araucania) and five species of southern beech (Nothofagus spp.), one of which is non-deciduous.