Vulpes ferrilataTibetan fox

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Geographic Range

Tibetan foxes have been known to inhabit the Tibetan plateau of India, China, Sutlej valley of northwestern India and parts of Nepal, specifically the Mustang district. (Postanowicz, 1997)

Habitat

Tibetan sand foxes have been reported to inhabit barren slopes and streambeds. They appear to prefer rocky or brushy areas at high elevation. They are found on the Tibetan Steppe at a maximum altitude of 5.300 m. These animals live in excavated dens or burrows under rocks or in crevices of boulder piles. (IUCN Canid Specialist Group, 2004; Nowak, 1991)

  • Range elevation
    5300 (high) m
    17388.45 (high) ft

Physical Description

Tibetan sand foxes range in color from black, to brown and rusty-colored, to yellowish on neck and back. They possess a tawny band on the dorsal region and white on the tail, muzzle and belly. The fur is thick, with a dense undercoat. (IUCN Canid Specialist Group, 2004; Nowak, 1991)

From nose to tail, The head and body length of Vulpes ferrilata measures from 575 to 700 mm. The tail adds an additional 400 to 475 mm to the total length. These animals weigh between 3 and 4 kg. There is no information available on sexual differences in size. The muzzle is elongated relative to most fox species. The teeth are well developed with extraordinarily long canines and narrow maxilla. (IUCN Canid Specialist Group, 2004; Nowak, 1991)

  • Range mass
    3 to 4 kg
    6.61 to 8.81 lb
  • Range length
    975 to 1175 mm
    38.39 to 46.26 in

Development

Kits do not emerge from the den for some weeks after their birth, but quickly develop, and within 8-10 months are sexually mature. (Schaller, 2000)

Reproduction

V. ferrilata is apparently monogamous, with mated pairs staying together for life. (Schaller, May 2000)

Mating season falls around late February to early March, and pairs of foxes stay together and are life-long mates. They live, hunt and share the responsibility of raising the young together. The gestation period is thought to be 50 to 60 days. Kits are born in late April to early May. The litter size ranges from 2 - 5 kits. The kits do not emerge from the den for some weeks after birth, so the exact gestation period is unknown. (Schaller, May 2000)

  • Breeding interval
    It seems these animals breed once annually.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in late February or early March.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 5
  • Range gestation period
    50 to 60 days

All canid young are altricial. V. ferrilata young o not emerge from their natal dens until they are several weeks old. The exact timing of weaning has not been reported. Because the species is monogamous, both parents are involved in caring for the young. (Schaller, May 2000)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • extended period of juvenile learning

Lifespan/Longevity

Some researchers assume a lifespan of 8-10 years under ideal circumstances. Most foxes are lost to natural causes or human trackers before their fifth year. (Schaller, May 2000)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 to 10 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 (high) years

Behavior

Mated pairs remain together for life. When one of the pair dies, it is unknown if the other seeks another mate. Kits stay with the parents until they are 8 to 10 months old. At that age they leave the den to find mates and home ranges of their own. The foxes are not overly territorial, and many pairs of the animals have been found living in close quarters and sharing hunting grounds. (Postanowicz, 1997; Schaller, May 2000; Postanowicz, 1997; Schaller, May 2000)

Home Range

The home range size for this species has not been reported.

Communication and Perception

Short yips are passed between animals to communicate, but since the pairs usually stay together, no long distance communication is known or thought necessary. Scent is used to define territory, but the foxes are not known to actively defend their area. (Nowak, 1991)

Food Habits

Foxes hunt in pairs (one male, one female) and will share whatever food is caught. They eat mostly rodents, hares, rabbits, and small ground birds. However, anything that can be caught will be eaten. The Black lipped pika, also sharing the same range and habitat, seems to be a preferred prey item. (Schaller, May 2000)

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

Predation

When threatened, Tibetan sand foxes retreat to their dens. (Nowak, 1991; Schaller, May 2000)

Ecosystem Roles

Tibetan sand foxes play a significant role in controlling the rodent and small animal population. They may also help to aerate the soil by digging their dens.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The only known predators of this species are humans, who commonly trap and kill V. ferrilata for their fur. There is a large industry in the higher areas of Tibet and Nepal for the fox’s fur, which is usually made into hats. The fur is prized for this, because of its great ability to protect its wearer from the wind and other elements. (IUCN Canid Specialist Group, 2004; Nowak, 1991; Postanowicz, 1997; Schaller, May 2000)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

These animals apparently have no negative impact on humans.

Conservation Status

V. ferrilata was formerly (1996) on the IUCN Redlist as a species of Lower Risk (least concern), but is currently unlisted.

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Melissa Borgwat (author), California State University, Sacramento, James Biardi (editor), California State University, Sacramento.

Glossary

Palearctic

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

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

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

chaparral

Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

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.

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

IUCN Canid Specialist Group, 2004. "Tibetan Fox (Vulpes ferrilata)" (On-line). IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group. Accessed March 23, 2004 at http://www.canids.org/SPPACCTS/vferrila.htm.

Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World Fifth Edition, Volume II. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Postanowicz, R. 1997. "Tibetan Fox (Vulpes ferrilata)" (On-line). Lioncrusher's Domain. Accessed March 23, 2004 at http://www.Lioncrusher.com/animal.asp?animal=34.

Schaller, G. May 2000. WIldlife of the Tibetan Steppe. University of Chicago Press.