The Tibetan Fox is widespread in the steppes and semi-deserts of the Tibetan Plateau and is also present in Nepal, the Mustang Region, and Ladakh. There are no important threats to the species at present, although pikas poisoning in many Tibetan plateau poses a concern.
The Tibetan fox is a well-adapted animal with different predators to thrive in its natural period of environment. Although these foxes are frequently mentioned for having a unique square head, they are also retrieved for fascinating facts like their ability to work with different animals and their raw hunting prowess.
Predators, Threats and disease
The Tibetan fox (Vulpes ferrilata), also recognized as Tibetan sand fox, is a species of true fox endemic to the high Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh plateau, Nepal, China, Sikkim, and Bhutan, up to elevations of about 5,300 m (17,400 ft). It is classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List because of its extensive range in the Tibetan Plateau’s steppes and semi-deserts.
In general, Tibetan Fox occurs at low thicknesses. Fox abundance depends partly on prey availability and somewhat on human hunting pressure. In northwest Tibet, in a distant area of desert steppe with small prey, only five foxes were seen in 1,848 km of driving.
Tibetan Fox Facts
- Main Prey: pikas, marmots, rodents, lizards, and other small prey
- Name Of Young: Kits
- Group Behavior: Pair
- Fun Fact: Tibetan foxes are not territorial and will share a hunting ground with other mated pairs.
- Estimated Population Size: 40,000
- Biggest Threat: Pika population reduction
- Most Distinctive Feature: Square-shaped skull
- Other Name(s): Tibetan sand fox
- Gestation Period: 50-60 days
- Litter Size: 2-4
- Habitat: Tibetan Plateau
- Predators: Humans
- Diet: Carnivore
- Type: Mammal
- Common Name: Tibetan fox
Tibetan Fox Physical Characteristics
- Color: Grey, Tan
- Skin Type: Fur
- Top Speed: 44 mph
- Lifespan: 8-10 years
- Weight: 8-12 lbs (4-5 kg)
- Length: 24-28 in (60-70 cm)
- Age of Sexual Maturity: 1 year
- Age of Weaning: 5-9 weeks
In addition to their stealthy appearance, Tibetan Foxes have a unique face with flat characteristics and sharp edges. Several fans of this animal consider the reason for this unique appearance; one of the best theories is that this design was created through various modifications that made the fox well-suited to navigating through the heavy winds that frequently blow across the plateau.
The short ears are brown to grayish tan on the back, while the insides and undersides are white. Adult Tibetan foxes are 60 to 70 centimeters (24 to 28 in), not including the tail, and have tail lengths of 29 to 40 cm (11 to 16 in). The weights of adults are normally 4 to 5.5 kg (8.8 to 12.1 lb).
Tibetan foxes are frequently solitary daytime hunters as their foremost prey, pikas, are diurnal. However, Tibetan foxes may form commensal relationships with brown bears throughout hunts for pikas. The bears dig out the pikas, and the foxes grab them when they leave the bears.
These animals are medium-sized foxes that are formed low to the ground. Most utmost of them has tan and grey coats, although copper and white coloring are not uncommon. Many Tibetan foxes seem even longer due to their 11-16 inch long tails, streak behind them as they dash beyond the plains.
The species is discovered in upland plains and hills from around 2,500–5,200 m; however, the superiority of Tibetan Fox habitat is > 3,000 m, and the preponderance of that > 4,000 m. Most of its habitat consists of sparse grasslands without trees and shrubs, especially where abundant Black-lipped Pikas are.
Tibetan Foxes spend significant time resting in little caves, hollows, and rock crevasses. They are numerous active at dawn and dusk, although they can be seen at any time of the day. These animals exist in excavated dens or burrows under rocks or in crevices of boulder piles.
The Tibetan fox primarily preys on Plateau pikas, followed by rodents, marmots, woolly hares, and lizards. It also scavenges on the carcasses of Tibetan antelopes, musk deer, blue sheep, and livestock. Tibetan foxes are mostly solitary daytime hunters as their main prey, pikas, are diurnal.
Their main prey of the Tibetan sand fox is the plateau pika. They also consume rodents, woolly hares, marmots, rabbits, lizards, and small ground birds. The foxes would also scavenge on the carcasses of many animals. However, they have also been observed eating fruits when food is scarce.
Because of their static population, the IUCN 3.1 has announced them as ‘LC’ (Least Concern). Although some animals may be held in a few zoos, the species is not identified to be kept in any formal conservation breeding program.
Predators and Threats
These animals are the principal predators for their mass gathering on the plateaus and fields where they perform their habitats. They hunt pikas, rodents, hares, lizards, and birds. They will also frequently experience the leftover carcasses of antelopes, sheep, deer, and different animals that happen to a larger predator in the region.
Interestingly, they do not typically face threats from the different predators in their landscapes. Whether it’s operating mutually with a bear or giving a carcass with wolves, these foxes regularly appear to be capable of negotiating with bigger carnivores. Because of this, the only genuine threat to the animal is the slow decay of their food supply due to accidental pika poisoning by local farmers and land developers.
Here are some interesting facts about the Tibetan Fox.
- This canid may form a commensal relationship with brown bears during hunts for pikas. While the bears dig the creatures out of their holes, the foxes chase and catch them.
- This animal is frequently confused with the corsac fox (Vulpes corsac) and the Rüppell’s fox (Vulpes rueppellii), both identified as the ‘sand fox’.
- In some parts of their habitat, the foxes are heavily affected by Echinococcus, a combination of tapeworms and hosts of alveolar hydatid disease.
- In 2006, the BBC filmed the Tibetan fox in their ‘Planet Earth’ series.