Vulpes corsacCorsac fox

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Geographic Range

The corsac fox occurs from the lower Volga river east across a wide area of central Asia, including Turkestan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Tibet, Transbaikalia, and northern Manchuria.

Habitat

The corsac fox is an inhabitant of steppes and semi-desert. It avoids areas used for agricultural purposes, forests, and thickets. It lives in adjoining burrows that were dug by other animals, then taken over by the fox.

Physical Description

The corsac fox is typical of the genus Vulpes, but slightly smaller than the red fox with larger legs and ears. The coloration is predominantly grey or reddish grey on the upper parts with silver undertones, while the under parts are white with yellow undertones. The chin is white and the fur is thick and soft all over. Its large, pointy ears are broad at the base.

The head and body length is 500-600 mm and the tail length is 250-350 mm.

  • Average mass
    2700 g
    95.15 oz
    AnAge

Reproduction

Vulpes corsac is monogamous.

The time of mating for the corsac fox is between January and March with a gestation time of 50-60 days. Litter sizes are typically between 2 and 6 young at a time, but there are some reported cases of a litter of up to 11 young. It is thought that males of the species probably help rear young but this is not known for certain. Males will fight with one another during the breeding season but then remain with the family pack.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 11
  • Average number of offspring
    5
  • Average number of offspring
    4.7
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    49 to 60 days
  • Range weaning age
    28 (low) days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    504 days
    AnAge
  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • post-independence association with parents

Lifespan/Longevity

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    13 years
    AnAge

Behavior

While Vulpes corsac is reported to be nocturnal in the wild, in captivity it is very active during the day. They are excellent climbers but run with only moderate speed and can be caught by a slow dog. Their senses of hearing, vision, and smell are excellent. Corsac foxes are reported to be nomadic and do not keep a fixed home range, they will migrate south when hunting is difficult due to deep snow and ice. This species is more social than other foxes. Some individuals even live together in the same burrow. In the winter, they form small hunting packs, which may represent mated pairs and their grown young. These foxes live in adjoining burrows which resemble "corsac cities". Their burrows have often been taken over from other animals such as marmots. Self-excavated burrows are usually simple and shallow.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The corsac fox is a carnivore and seems to favor rodents as a main item in the diet. They also consume large quantitities of insects, some pikas, birds and plant material. The teeth are small. They catch rodents using a characteristic style of leaping into the air, then dropping down on prey so they have less of a chance to escape. Their broad ears help them locate rustles that indicate presence of a rodent.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • insects

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In the late nineteenth century, Corsac foxes were commercially trapped on a large scale for their warm and beautiful fur. Up to 10,000 pelts were sold annually in western Siberian cities. They were popular pets in the seventeenth century.

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Conservation Status

Although human persecution has eliminated large groups and made them more nocturnal, there is no conservation program for the corsac fox. Little is known about their precise numbers but hunting and the plowing of land for agriculture have significantly reduced populations in some areas. The fox has disappeared over much of its range.

Other Comments

Unlike the red fox, the corsac fox lacks the penetrating odor common to other Vulpes.

Contributors

Carmen Borsa (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

January 27,1999. "International Union for Conservation of Nature" (On-line). Accessed December 11, 1999 at http://users.ox.ac.uk/~wcruinfo/csgweb/sspaccts/vcorsac.htm.

Alderton, D. 1994. Foxes, Wolves and Wild Dogs of the World. New York: University Press.

Nowak, R. 1996. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.