Vulpes canaBlandford's fox

Geographic Range

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. (Yom-Tov and Geffen, 1999)

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. (Yom-Tov and Geffen, 1999)

  • Range elevation
    2000 (high) m
    6561.68 (high) ft

Physical Description

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. (Nowak, 1999; Yom-Tov and Geffen, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    1.5 to 3 kg
    3.30 to 6.61 lb
  • Average length
    426 mm
    16.77 in

Development

See Reproduction.

Reproduction

Vulpes cana is monogamous. (Nowak, 1999)

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. (Geffen, et al., 1992; Nowak, 1999; Yom-Tov and Geffen, 1999)

  • 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
  • Average number of offspring
    2
    AnAge
  • 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

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. (Nowak, 1999)

  • 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

Lifespan/Longevity

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. (Yom-Tov and Geffen, 1999)

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

Behavior

Blanford's foxes are strictly nocturnal, solitary hunters. They do not exhibit a change in their daily activity with season. They generally become active soon after dusk and are active throughout the night. (Geffen, et al., 2005; Geffen, et al., 1992; Nowak, 1999)

In Israel Blanford's foxes occur at population densities up to 2 per square kilometer. They are one of the few fox species to regularly climb, scaling cliffs with ease. Their especially long tail is used as a counter balance when jumping and climbing. (Geffen, et al., 2005)

  • Average territory size
    1.6 km^2

Home Range

Foraging home range averaged 1.1 square kilometers, plus or minus 0.7 square kilometers. Monogamous pairs occupy territories of 1.6 square kilometers, with little overlap between territories. (Geffen and MacDonald, 1992)

Communication and Perception

Like other canids, Blanford's foxes have keen eyesight, sense of smell, and hearing. They communicate with chemical cues and with vocalizations.

Food Habits

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. (Geffen, et al., 2005; Geffen, et al., 1992; Nowak, 1999)

Blanford's foxes hunt alone the majority of time. Even mated pairs tend to forage independently. They rarely cache food. (Geffen, et al., 2005)

Blanford's foxes seem to rarely drink water, meeting their water needs through the foods they eat. (Geffen and MacDonald, 1992; Geffen, et al., 2005)

  • Animal Foods
  • mammals
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Predation

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. (Geffen, et al., 2005; Yom-Tov and Geffen, 1999)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

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. (Geffen, et al., 1992; Yom-Tov and Geffen, 1999)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

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. (Yom-Tov and Geffen, 1999)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Blanford's foxes cause domestic crop damage in some areas. (Geffen and MacDonald, 1992)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

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. (Nowak, 1999)

Other Comments

Mitochondrial DNA evidence suggests that Blanford's foxes and fennec foxes are sister taxa. (Geffen, et al., 2005)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Marty Heiser (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

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

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

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.

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.

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.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

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

solitary

lives alone

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.

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.

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

Geffen, E., R. Hefner, P. Wright. 2005. "Blanford's fox (Vulpes cana)" (On-line). IUCN Canid Specialist Group. Accessed September 27, 2007 at http://www.canids.org/species/Vulpes_cana.htm.

Geffen, E., D. MacDonald. 1993. Activity and Movement Patterns of Blandford's Foxes.. Journal of Mammalogy, 74(2): 455-463.

Geffen, E., D. MacDonald. 1992. Small Size and Monogomy: Spatial Organization of Blandford's Foxes, *Vulpes cana*. Animal Behaviour, 44: 1123-1130.

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.

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

Yom-Tov, Y., E. Geffen. 1999. "IUCN Canid Specialist Group" (On-line). Accessed September 15, 2001 at http://www.canids.org/SPPACCTS/vcana.htm.