Although lacking the bold colouring of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) with which it coexists, Blanford’s fox is no less striking. 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. 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).
Blanford’s foxes are strictly monogamous, with territories that marginally overlap those of adjacent pairs. However, pairs hunt and forage individually, and spend most of their time independent of one another. The diet is omnivorous, consisting of insects, small mammals and fruit, but reportedly more frugivorous than that of other foxes (3). The species has been observed eating domestic crops and seems to prefer melons, grapes, and Russian olives in some areas (5).
Blanford’s foxes typically mate from January to February, 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 10 to 12 months they are sexually mature. The average lifespan is four to five years in the wild (5).
Blanford’s fox is 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).
Blanford’s fox is 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).
Blanford’s fox is not considered to be globally threatened, and is fairly common in south-eastern Israel and locally abundant in the United Arab Emirates (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.
Blanford’s fox occurs in protected areas in the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Oman (1). 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 there is currently no legal protection in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, 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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Geffen, E., Hefner, R. and Wright, P. (2004) Blandford’s fox. In: Sillero-Zubiri, C., Hoffmann, M. and Macdonald, D.W. (Eds) Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland.
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