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The Tibetan Sand Fox (Vulpes ferrilata) is a species of true fox endemic to the high Tibetan Plateaumarker in Nepalmarker, Chinamarker, and Indiamarker, up to altitudes of about 5300 m. It is sometimes referred to as the Tibetan Fox, or simply as the Sand Fox, but this terminology is confusing because the Corsac Fox (Vulpes corsac), which lives in arid environments north and west of the Tibetan Plateau, is often called the "Sand Fox" or "Tibetan Fox" as well. Rüppell's Fox (Vulpes rueppellii) is also known as the "Sand Fox".

Physical description

The Tibetan Sand Fox is one of the smaller fox species. It has thick, soft fur that protects it from the winds of the high mountains, with a dense undercoat that is brown to rusty yellow in color. The fur on the upper flanks is rusty, whereas the lower flanks and rump is colored gray, sometimes producing the illusion of a line along the animal's flank. The lower part of its ruff, as well as its throat, chest, and abdominal region is white. Small black patches on the shoulders set off the white chest.The tip of the tail is white. Adult Tibetan foxes are from head to body (juveniles are somewhat smaller) and a tail length of . Weights of adults are usually .

The Tibetan Sand Fox has a unique face that appears square; this is an illusion created by its large ruff. As seen in the Planet Earth episode "Great Plains", the fox keeps its body stiff and its head level when stalking.

The Tibetan Sand Fox's karyotype is made up of 36 chromosomes.

Behavior

Mated pairs remain together and may also hunt together. Mating evidently occurs in December, with whelping in February.

After a gestation period of about 50 to 60 days, two to four young are born in a den, and stay with the parents until they are eight to ten months old. Shortly after leaving they will search for mates and territory of their own.

In contrast to other fox species, the Tibetan Fox is not highly territorial, so it may be found near other foxes.

Diet

The Tibetan Sand Fox primarily preys on the Plateau Pika (Ochotona curzoniae); it also feeds on rodents, ground birds, and carrion.

A 1998 dropping analysis of 113 fox droppings to determine the Tibetan Sand Fox diet showed a content of 95 percent Plateau Pika (Ochotona curzoniae) and 2.7 percent Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii), most likely scavenged. The remainder consisted of insects, bird feathers, and plants, including Ephedra berries. A previous study in 1986 showed Woolly Hare (Lepus oiostolus) and a lizard of the Phrynocephalus genus, while a separate study the previous year of 158 droppings in the Qinghai Provincemarker of China noted additional content, including Himalayan Marmot (Marmota himalayana), Bharal (Pseudois nayaur), Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschus chrysogaster), and livestock.

References



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  • "Tibetan fox (Vulpes ferrilata)." Canid Specialist Group, World Conservation Union/Species Survival Commission. 2005. ( PDF file)
  • Namgail, T., Bagchi, S., Bhatnagar, Y.V. & Wangchuk, R. (2005). Occurrence of the Tibetan sand fox Vulpes ferrilata Hodgson in Ladakh: A new record for the Indian sub-Continent. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 102: 217-219.
  • Namgail, T. (2006). Tibetan sand fox in Ladakh. Ladags Melong, Aug. 2006
  • Borgwat, Melissa. "Vulpes ferrilata (Tibetan fox)." Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. 2001. [143229]



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