Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Blanford's foxes are strictly monogamous, with territories that marginally overlap those of adjacent pairs (3). However, pairs hunt and forage individually, and spend most of their time independent of one another (7). The diet is omnivorous, consisting of insects, small mammals and fruit, but reportedly more frugivorous than that of other foxes (5). The species has been observed eating domestic crops and seems to prefer melons, grapes, and Russian chives in some areas (5). Blanford's foxes typically mate from December to January (5), but breeding in captivity has been observed as late as April. After a gestation period of 50 to 60 days, the female gives birth to a litter of one to three pups (3). The young are fed exclusively on milk until they are weaned after 30 to 45 days, after which they accompany their parents on foraging trips (3) (5). At four months old young start foraging alone in the territory (3), and by 8 to 12 months they are sexually mature (5). The average lifespan is four to five years in the wild, and has not been known to exceed ten (5).
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Description

Although lacking the bold colouring of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) with which it coexists, Blanford's fox is no less striking (3). The coat is soft and luxurious, usually being a rusty brown, with grey undercoat and streaked in black guard hairs, while the belly and throat are a light creamy white (3). A distinct black stripe runs from the nape of the neck down the centre of the back, and the tail is often tipped in black, or less frequently in white (3). This small fox has a short, slender snout, very large ears, a long, bushy tail, and has been described as having a cat-like appearance and demeanour (2) (3). The sharply pointed muzzle has a distinctive black stripe extending from the eyes to the top lip (3). Males and females are similar in appearance (5).
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Distribution

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 )

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Range Description

The Blanford's Fox was first described from south-western Asia in 1877, and specimens were collected from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkistan (= Turkmenistan) (Novikov 1962; Bobrinskii et al. 1965; Lay 1967; Hassinger 1973; Roberts 1977). In 1981, the species was discovered in Israel (Ilani 1983), and since then throughout the Middle East (Harrison and Bates 1989; Al Khalili 1993; Stuart and Stuart 1995; Amr et al. 1996; Amr 2000; Abu Baker et al. 2004) and even in Egypt, west of the Suez Canal (Peters and Rödel 1994).
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Distribution in Egypt

Localized (South Sinai).

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Range

Present from the Middle East eastwards to Afghanistan. Found in the countries of Afghanistan, Egypt (Sinai), Iran (Islamic Republic of), Israel, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen (1).
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Physical Description

Morphology

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

  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press.
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Ecology

Habitat

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

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Blanford's Fox is confined to mountainous regions (Lay 1967; Roberts 1977). Hassinger (1973) concluded that Blanford's Foxes are generally found below an altitude of 2,000 m in dry montane biotopes. All the records collected on the Persian Plateau are from foothills and mountains in the vicinity of lower plains and basins (Hassinger 1973; Roberts 1977). In that region, the habitat of Blanford's foxes comprises the slopes of rocky mountains with stony plains and patches of cultivation (Lay 1967; Roberts 1977). This species appears to avoid higher mountain ranges as well as lower, warmer valleys (Roberts 1977).

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).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Usually found in semi-arid mountainous regions to an altitude of 2,000 metres, where rocky slopes, canyons and cliffs are the preferred habitat (2) (5) (6). Blanford's fox also uses dry creek beds in some areas, where prey is often abundant (6). Originally, Blanford's fox was thought to avoid hot lowlands, but they have been found near the Dead Sea (the lowest valley in the world) in Israel, an area that reaches extreme summertime temperatures (2). This species also inhabits cultivated areas (5).
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Trophic Strategy

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

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Associations

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

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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.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Known predators

Vulpes cana is prey of:
Homo sapiens

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Vulpes cana preys on:
Insecta
Mammalia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

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

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Life Cycle

See Reproduction.

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Life Expectancy

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.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
10 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
4 to 5 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: In the wild, these animals may live up to 10 years (Bernhard Grzimek 1990). Because longevity has not been studied in detail in captivity, their maximum longevity is unknown.
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Reproduction

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)

  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press.
  • Geffen, E., H. Reuven, D. MacDonald, M. Ucko. 1992. Diet and Foraging behavior of Blandford's Foxes, *Vulpes cana*, In Israel. Journal of Mammalogy, 73(2): 395-402.
  • Yom-Tov, Y., E. Geffen. 1999. "IUCN Canid Specialist Group" (On-line). Accessed September 15, 2001 at http://www.canids.org/SPPACCTS/vcana.htm.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

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

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Geffen, E., Hefner, R. & Wright, P.

Reviewer/s
Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern as the available evidence suggests that Blanford's Fox has a relatively wide distribution range albeit largely confined to mountainous regions. It is fairly common in some parts of its range, and while the species may be undergoing localized declines, there are at present no known major range-wide threats believed to be resulting in a significant decline that would warrant listing the species in a threatened category.

History
  • 2004
    Vulnerable
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
  • 1994
    Insufficiently Known
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Insufficiently Known
    (IUCN 1990)
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Status in Egypt

Native, resident.

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Status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed under Appendix II of CITES (4).
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Population

Population
The only available population densities come from Israel where the species is fairly common in the south-east and where density estimates of 2.0/km² in Ein Gedi and 0.5/km² in Eilat have been recorded. Surveys in other regions, such as Arabia, indicate that Blanford's Box is locally abundant. In United Arab Emirates, for example, researchers frequently captured foxes in the north-eastern mountains of the country (Smith et al. 2003).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
There are currently no obvious major range-wide threats to Blanford's Fox. In Israel, habitat loss is limited as most of the area where this species occurs is designated as protected. However, political developments may change the status of the northern Judaean Desert, and human development along the Dead Sea coasts may also pose a considerable threat to existing habitat. Similar concerns exist for the populations in the U.A.E. (Smith et al. 2003). They may be killed incidentally through carcass poisoning of other target species, such as hyaenas and wolves. At present, the trade in fur is negligible and confined to Afghanistan.
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Blanford's fox is fairly common in south-eastern Israel but its abundance in other countries is unknown, with fewer than 1,000 mature individuals believed to exist overall (1). Most of the area in which this species occurs in Israel is protected, but there are concerns that political developments may change the status of the Judaean Desert (1). Human development along the Dead Sea coasts may also pose a considerable threat to existing habitat, with similar concerns for the populations in the United Arab Emirates (1). Blanford's fox has been persecuted for its fur, although trade is negligible and thought to be confined to Afghanistan (1). Sadly, this inquisitive fox has no real fear of man, making it easy to trap (7).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Listed on CITES – Appendix II. Fully protected in Israel, with no hunting, trapping or trading permitted. Holding in captivity requires a special permit from the Nature Reserves Authority of Israel. There is a ban on hunting in Jordan and Oman. However, there is no legal protection in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan.

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.
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Conservation

Blanford's fox occurs in protected areas in Israel, Jordan and Oman (1), including Ein Gedi National Park and the Elat Mountains National Park in Israel (2). It is also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade in this species should be regulated (4). Hunting, trapping and trade are totally prohibited in Israel, and holding in captivity requires a special permit from the Nature Reserves Authority of Israel (1). There is also a hunting ban in Jordan and Oman, but sadly there is no legal protection in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan (1). Captive populations are held at the Hai Bar Breeding Centre (near Eilat) in Israel and, in previous years, there was a pair at the Tel Aviv University Zoo (1). Captive individuals are also kept at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, Sharjah, U.A.E. (1). Blanford's foxes have been successfully bred at all the above facilities, providing potential for future reintroductions into the wild (1). More information on the behaviour and ecology of this species outside of Israel is desperately required, together with a better understanding of the threats it faces in the eastern parts of its range (1). Such information might help encourage those countries to increase their legal protection of this unusual and inquisitive fox.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Blanford's foxes cause domestic crop damage in some areas.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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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

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Wikipedia

Blanford's fox

Blanford's fox (Vulpes cana), is a small fox found in certain regions of the Middle East.

Other names[edit]

It is also known as the Afghan fox, royal fox, dog fox, hoary fox, steppe fox, black fox,[4] king fox[4] (شاه‌روباه Shāhrūbāh in Persian), cliff fox[4] or Baluchistan fox.[4] This can be confusing because other species are known as the corsac fox (Vulpes corsac) and the hoary fox (Lycalopex vetulus).

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Blanford's fox inhabits semi-arid regions, steppes and mountains of Afghanistan, Egypt (Sinaï), Turkestan,[5] northeast Iran, SW Pakistan, the West Bank and Israel.[6] 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[7] and the Mountains of Ras Al Khaima, UAE,[8] and in Saudi Arabia.[9]

The Blanford's fox possesses footpads that are hairless and have claws that are cat-like, curved, sharp, and have been described by some authors as semi-retractile.[10][11]

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.[12] The foxes use their sharp, curved claws and naked footpads for traction on narrow ledges and their long, bushy tails as a counterbalance.[12]

Appearance[edit]

Fur skin of Blanford´s fox

Like all desert foxes, the Blanford's fox has large ears which enables it to dissipate heat.[citation needed] 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.[13]

Shoulder height: 12 in. (30 cm)[citation needed]

Head and body length: 17 in. (42 cm)[13]

Tail length: 12 in. (30 cm)[13]

Weight: 2–3.3 lb. (0.9–1.5 kg)[13]

Diet[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.

Reproduction[edit]

  • Time of mating: January–February.[5]
  • Gestation period: 50–55 days.[4]
  • Litter size: 2–4 kits.[4]
  • Lactation: 6–8 weeks days.[4]
  • Age at sexual maturity: 8–12 months.[4]
  • Longevity: Generally 4–5 years,[4] but reported to live up to 10 years.[citation needed]

Sustainability[edit]

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.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 532–628. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b Geffen, E., Hefner, R. & Wright, P. (2008). "Vulpes cana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Don E. Wilson, DeeAnn M. Reeder (16 November 2005). Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference 1. Smithsonian. p. 583. ISBN 978-1-56098-217-3. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Blanford's fox". Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife. 29 August 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Blanford's fox Distribution". Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife. 13 May 2004. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  6. ^ GBIF sighting records
  7. ^ El-Alqamy H., Wacher T. J., Hamada A. & Rashad, S. (2003). Camera Traps; A Non-invasive Sampling Technique to Redefine the Large Mammals Fauna of South Sinai. Full Book-2003, Cat Specialist Group-IUCN
  8. ^ Llewellyn-Smith, R.E. (2000). A short note on Blanford's fox Vulpes cana in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah. Tribulus 10.1:23–24.
  9. ^ Cunningham and Wronski (2009). "Blanford's fox confirmed in the At-Tubaiq Protected Area (norther Saudi Arabia) and the Ibex Reserve (central Saudi Arabia)". Canid News (IUCN/SSC Specialist Group) (12.4). ISSN 1478-2677. 
  10. ^ Sillero-Zubiri, Claudio; Hoffman, Michael; and MacDonald David W. Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals, and Dogs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN; 2004. p206
  11. ^ Geffen, E., Hefner, R., Macdonald, D.W. and Ucko, M. 1992d. Morphological adaptations and seasonal weight changes in the Blanford’s fox, Vulpes cana. Journal of Arid Environments 23:287–292.
  12. ^ a b IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group. Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals, and Dogs – 2004 Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Cambridge: IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group, 2004. p. 197.
  13. ^ a b c d Burnie D and Wilson DE (eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645

Further reading[edit]

  • Abu Baker, M. A. et al., (2004). On the Current Status and Distribution of Blanford's fox, Vulpes cana Blanford, 1877, in Jordan (Mammalia: Carnivora: Canidae). Turk. J. Zool., 28: 1–6.
  • Geffen, E., R. Hefner, D. W. Macdonald & Ucko M. (1992). Habitat selection and home range in the Blanford's fox, Vulpes cana: compatibility with the Resource Dispersion Hypothesis. Oecologia 91: 75–81.
  • Geffen, E. (1994). Blanford's fox, Vulpes cana. Mammalian Species, 462:1–4.
  • Stuart, C.T. & Stuart, T. (1995). Canids in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula. Canid News 3:30–32.
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