Vulpes cana, Blanford's fox, is found from Israel throughout the mountainous regions of the middle east to Afghanistan. The range of this species likely covers all the middle-eastern countries, although populations may be discontinuous. They are known from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkistan (Kazakhstan), Israel, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, and are expected to occur throughout a wider range, including Eritrea, Sudan, and Yemen.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native )
Distribution in Egypt
Localized (South Sinai).
Blandford's foxes are small foxes with large ears and long, bushy tails with long, dark guard hairs. They range in mass from 1.5 to 3 kg, and in head to tail length from 70 to 90 cm (tail mean length is 323 mm, body mean length is 426 mm. Males and females are similar in appearance. The snout is slender. Vulpes cana has cat-like movements and appearance. Coloration is black, brown, or grey, and is sometimes blotchy. The flanks are lighter than the back, which has a black stripe running down it, and the underside is yellow. The tip of the tail is usually dark but can be white. Males have 3 to 6% longer forelegs and bodies than females.
Range mass: 1.5 to 3 kg.
Average length: 426 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Vulpes cana is found in semi-arid steppes and mountains. This species prefers areas with steep, rocky slopes, cliffs, and canyons. Historically, Blanford's foxes were considered to avoid hot lowlands as well as cooler uplands. However, they have been observed near the Dead Sea in Israel, where they are found in cultivated areas where melons, Russian chives, and seedless grapes are grown. Blanford's foxes occur up to elevations of about 2000 meters. The most important habitat feature for Blanford's foxes seems to be the presence of dry creek beds. Dens are chosen in areas with large rock piles.
Range elevation: 2000 (high) m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Habitat and Ecology
In the Middle East, Blanford's Foxes are confined to mountainous desert ranges and inhabit steep, rocky slopes, canyons and cliffs (Mendelssohn et al. 1987; Harrison and Bates 1989). In Israel, Blanford's Fox is distributed along the western side of the Rift Valley, and, in the central Negev, specimens were collected in creeks that drain into the Rift Valley (Geffen et al. 1993). Apparently, Blanford's Fox can occur on various rock formations as long as its other requirements are met. The distribution of Blanford's Fox in the Arabian Desert is not limited by access to water (Geffen et al. 1992a). In Israel, Blanford's Foxes inhabit the driest and hottest regions. The densest population is found in the Judaean Desert at elevations of 100–350 m below sea level. This is in contrast to Roberts' (1977) remark that the species avoids low, warm valleys in Pakistan.
Geffen et al. (1992b) found that dry creek bed was the most frequently visited habitat in all home ranges in Israel. Home ranges at Ein Gedi (in km²), comprised an average (± SD) of 63.44 ± 3.22% gravel scree, 3.63 ± 2.59% boulder scree, 28.38 ± 4.05% dry creek bed, and 4.54 ± 3.46% stream and spring. Average time (± SD) spent by foxes at Ein Gedi in gravel scree was 148.8 ± 109.8 min/night, 46.0 ± 63.8 min/night in boulder scree, 359.9 ± 141.9 min/night in dry creek bed, and 13.0 ± 27.9 min/night near a water source (Geffen et al. 1992b). Dry creek bed provided abundant prey for the foxes and only sparse cover for their terrestrial predators. Creek bed patches were used in proportion to their size. Both the available area of creek bed in each range and the area of creek bed patches that was used by the foxes were independent of home range size. However, variance in home range size was explained by the mean distance between the main denning area and the most frequently used patches of creek bed (Geffen et al. 1992b).
Blanford's foxes are omnivorous, eating mostly insects and fruit. Prey includes insects such as beetles, locusts, grasshopper, ants, and termites. Primary wild fruits eaten are two species of caperbush (Capparis cartilaginea and Capparis spinosa), Phoenix dactylifera, Ochradenus baccatus, Fagonia mollis, and Graminea species. Fecal samples have up to 10% vertebrate remains as well. In Pakistan they have been recorded eating agricultural crops, including melons, grapes, and Russian olives.
Blanford's foxes hunt alone the majority of time. Even mated pairs tend to forage independently. They rarely cache food.
Blanford's foxes seem to rarely drink water, meeting their water needs through the foods they eat.
Animal Foods: mammals; insects
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Blanford's foxes help to control rapidly growing small mammal populations by preying on mammals such as rodents. They may have a similar effect on insect populations. Because they are frugivorous, they likely play some role in dispersing seeds.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
The main predator of these foxes is humans, although one case of a Blanford's fox being killed by a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has been recorded. Blanford's foxes are not hard to catch, showing little fear of traps or humans.
- humans (Homo sapiens)
- red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Like other canids, Blanford's foxes have keen eyesight, sense of smell, and hearing. They communicate with chemical cues and with vocalizations.
Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Average lifespan of Blandford's foxes is 4 to 5 years, and does not exceed 10 years in the wild. Old age and rabies are the primary recorded causes of mortality.
Status: wild: 10 (high) years.
Status: wild: 4 to 5 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Vulpes cana is monogamous.
Mating System: monogamous
Blanford's foxes typically mate from December to February. They are strictly monogamous. The gestation period is 50 to 60 days, after which the female gives birth to a litter of 1 to 3 kits. The altricial young are nursed for 30 to 45 days. Young become sexually mature between 8 and 12 months of age.
Breeding interval: Blanford's foxes give birth once each year.
Breeding season: Blanford's foxes breed during December and January, and give birth between March and April.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 3.
Range gestation period: 50 to 60 days.
Range weaning age: 30 to 45 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 8 to 12 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8 to 12 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 29 g.
Average number of offspring: 2.
Females nurse their young for 30 to 45 days. Young are dependent on their mothers until they can forage on their own. Foxes have relatively altricial young, and usually give birth to them in a secluded den, where they can develop under the care of their mother. Because the mating system of Blandford's foxes is monogamous, and breeding pairs maintain minimally overlapping ranges, the male may also be considered to provide some care to the offspring, even if only in the form of maintaining an area from which food is supplied. Males have been observed grooming juveniles. Young remain in their natal range until the October or November in the year of their birth.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
Trapping and hunting have caused a large decline in the numbers of these foxes. They are protected throughout Israel, as the majority of their habitat is in protected areas. Development in other parts of their range may pose a risk to populations.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Data Deficient
- 1994Insufficiently Known(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Insufficiently Known(IUCN 1990)
Status in Egypt
The species occurs in protected areas in Israel, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
In Israel, the species is kept in captivity at the Hai Bar Breeding Centre (near Eilat). In previous years, there was a pair at the Tel Aviv University Zoo. Captive individuals are also kept at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, Sharjah, U.A.E. Foxes have been successfully bred at all the above facilities.
Gaps in knowledge
The information on the biology of Blanford's foxes is mostly from the southern part of Israel. Nothing is known on the behaviour and ecology of the species in the eastern part of its distribution. Interactions with other predators and the susceptibility to diseases are poorly understood.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Blanford's foxes cause domestic crop damage in some areas.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
The pelts of Blanford's foxes are valuable and they are hunted. Because of their diet, this species probably controls rodent and insect populations which might have a negative impact on crops.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population
Blanford's fox (Vulpes cana), is a small fox found in certain regions of the Middle East.
It is also known as the Afghan fox, royal fox, dog fox, hoary fox, steppe fox, black fox, king fox (شاهروباه Shāhrūbāh in Persian), cliff fox or Baluchistan fox. This can be confusing because other species are known as the corsac fox (Vulpes corsac) and the hoary fox (Lycalopex vetulus).
Distribution and habitat
The Blanford's fox inhabits semi-arid regions, steppes and mountains of Afghanistan, Egypt (Sinaï), Turkestan, northeast Iran, SW Pakistan, the West Bank and Israel. It may also live throughout Arabia (Oman, Yemen and Jordan), as one was trapped in Dhofar, Oman in 1984. Recent camera trapping surveys have confirmed the presence of the species in several places in the mountains of South Sinai, Egypt and the Mountains of Ras Al Khaima, UAE, and in Saudi Arabia.
The Blanford's fox has an ability to climb rocks and jump described as "astonishing", jumping to ledges 3 m above them with ease and as part of their regular movements and climbing vertical, crumbling cliffs by a series of jumps up vertical sections. The foxes use their sharp, curved claws and naked footpads for traction on narrow ledges and their long, bushy tails as a counterbalance.
Like all desert foxes, the Blanford's fox has large ears which enables it to dissipate heat. However, unlike other desert foxes, it does not have pads covered with hair, which would otherwise protect its paws from hot sand. Its tail is almost equal in length to its body. Its coat is light tan, with white underparts and a black tip on the tail. Among all extant canids, only the Fennec Fox is smaller than the Blanford's.
Shoulder height: 12 in. (30 cm)
Head and body length: 17 in. (42 cm)
Tail length: 12 in. (30 cm)
Weight: 2–3.3 lb. (0.9–1.5 kg)
Omnivorous, and more frugivorous than other foxes. It prefers seedless grapes, ripe melons and Russian chives when consuming domestic crops. In addition, it eats insects. The Biblical foxes in the vineyard mentioned in the Song of Songs 2:15, described as "little foxex who roun the vineyards" are most probably the frugivorous Blanford's foxes.
- Time of mating: January–February.
- Gestation period: 50–55 days.
- Litter size: 2–4 kits.
- Lactation: 6–8 weeks days.
- Age at sexual maturity: 8–12 months.
- Longevity: Generally 4–5 years, but reported to live up to 10 years.
While the IUCN has downgraded Blanford's fox to "least concern" as more has been learned about the breadth of its distribution across the Middle East, there is still very little knowledge about this species and its vulnerabilities to the diseases of domesticated dogs that have so badly affected other canids. Currently there is little competition with humans for habitat, and the fox is a protected species in Israel and protected from hunting in Oman and Yemen. Some fur hunting occurs in Afghanistan and occasionally they may take poison intended for hyenas and other species.
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