Blanfords fox

Vulpes cana

TAXONOMY

Vulpes cana Blanford, 1877, Pakistan. No subspecies recognized. Blanford's fox is a small but otherwise probably typical member of the desert foxes, a group of nine species all in the genus Vulpes, which live in the deserts of the Old World and North America. Genetic evidence shows that the fennec fox is Blanford fox's closest relative.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Afghan fox.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The second smallest of the canids after the fennec, Blanford's fox weighs 2.2-3.3 lb (1-1.5 kg) and stands 10.6-11.8 in (27-30

HABITAT

In the area where the species has been studied in Israel, it has a very precise habitat. It lives on rocky hillsides. It does not venture above 6,560 ft (2,000 m) and usually avoids the flat, flood plains of lower elevations.

BEHAVIOR

In Israel, pairs live in small territories averaging 0.6 mi2 (1.6 km2). A female from the previous litter often shares her parents' range. The species is strictly nocturnal, traveling about 5.6 mi (9 km) per night during eight hours of foraging.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The species eats mainly insects and fruits. In the Negev of Israel, beetles, ants, termites and grasshoppers were all snapped up together with dates and the fruits of other palms. In central Asia, olives are a staple food. Rats and mice are taken when encountered but constitute less than 10% of the diet. The species can survive without drinking water. Its fluid comes from its food and it has been calculated that the water provided by food may often be more important than the calories. Foraging is almost always solitary and consists of slow and systematic investigation stones and bushes in search on insects. The foxes dash after small vertebrates when flushed.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous. The species does not try to dig dens in its rocky habitat and the young are born in piles of boulders. The young survive on their mother's milk alone for the first two months of life. Although the male may be present at the den, there is no evidence that he regurgitates or regularly carries food to the young. An insectivorous diet does not make regurgitation practical. At eight weeks, the young start to forage with their parents and at three months they forage on their own.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Blanford's fox is seldom seen and has been considered one of the rare carnivores of central Asia. However is not clear if it is rare or just secretive. It appears to exist over a large range of at least 772 mi2 (2,000 km2), and is known to live close to humans. It is hunted in several areas. It is listed by IUCN as Data Deficient.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Blanford's fox is hunted for its fur in parts of Asia, but is often inconspicuous to humans. ♦

I Vulpes cana I Otocyon megalotis

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