Vulpes corsac


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Vulpes corsac
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1768)
Common Name/s:
English Corsac Fox, Corsac
French Renard Corsac

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Poyarkov, A. & Ovsyanikov, N.
Reviewer/s: Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)
The Corsac is found in central Asia, ranging into Mongolia and northeastern China. Populations fluctuate significantly, and population decreases are dramatic, caused by catastrophic climatic events, and numbers can drop tenfold within the space of a single year. Corsac foxes have the ability to forego water and food for extended periods of time. They are well adapted to a hot and dry climate. Current population status, and the nature of major threats, is unknown in most regions. However, the species is not considered threatened at present.
2004 Least Concern
1996 Data Deficient
1994 Insufficiently Known (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Insufficiently Known (IUCN 1990)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The current range of the Corsac is disjunct. One part covers the Middle Asian republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, as well as steppe and forest-steppe areas of Russia, including the southern region of Western Siberia. In Europe its range reaches the Samara Region, Tatarstan to the North and northern Caucasia to the South. The second, much smaller area lies in southern Transbaikalye representing the northern periphery of the Mongolian and Manchurian section of the species area. Outside Russia the species area includes the steppe part of north-eastern China, including Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, and the region between Argun and Big Khingan, the entire Mongolian republic except for its forested and mountain regions, Dgungaria, Kashgaria, Afghanistan (probably only northern) and north-eastern Iran. Southern limit of distribution is unknown, but possibly it reaches to the mountain ridges separating the Tibet Highland from the North. Thus, the two ranges (western and eastern) are connected by a relatively narrow neck in the Dgungar Gate and Zaisan Basin region. In recent years, a westward area expansion has been recorded, particularly into the Voronezh region following active recovery of baibak (Marmota bobac) populations. Occasionally, the species is recorded from the Ukrainian steppe (as far as Pavlodar to the West), eastern Transcaucasia (Azerbaijan) and, probably, western Kyrgyzstan.

In Russia the Corsac is rare in most regions, but common in West Siberia and Transbaikalie. It sometimes occurs in northern parts of West Siberia's forested steppes, but in low numbers. The species is common everywhere between the Volga and Ural rivers. In Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northern China, the corsac is Common or abundant, although in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan the species is usually rare. Population status in Afghanistan and Iran is unknown.
Afghanistan; China; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Russian Federation; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Corsac populations fluctuate significantly. Population decreases are dramatic, caused by catastrophic climatic events, and numbers can drop tenfold within the space of a single year. On the other hand, in favourable years numbers can increase by the same margin and more within a three to four year period. Dramatic population changes were reported during the last century in PredKavkazie, between Kuma and Terek rivers and in Kuma-Manich Channel region. A drastic population decline was reported at the beginning of the last century (Dinnik 1914). Numbers had recovered by 1924 to 1925; one hunter during that time could take up to 15–30 Corsac foxes in one season (Ognev 1931). By 1931 numbers decreased again with a subsequent increase in 1951 (Verezhagin 1959). In the Ural region during particular years up to 5,500 animals were taken by trappers, and up to 1,700 in the Gurievskaya region. To the south, in Mangishlak and Ustyurt, the corsac is widespread and in some years abundant.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Corsac typically inhabits steppes, semi-deserts and deserts, avoiding mountains, forested areas and dense bush. In the western part of the range they occur in low-grass steppe, avoiding dense and tall grass steppes. In Kaspyi Sea region the steppes and tarragon-cereal semi-deserts are favoured. It also occurs in fixed-sand habitats (Nogaiskaya Steppe). In Volgo-Ural watershed the Corsac inhabits most usual habitats, but prefers semi-deserts. To the east of the Ural Mountains, the species inhabits steppes and in favourable years occurs even in forested steppes. In Kazakhstan typical habitats are low grass steppes and semi-deserts, often inhabiting low hills, but avoiding low mountains. In Middle-Asia it inhabits semi-deserts and ephemeral-deserts, avoiding drifting sands. One limiting factor is snow height in winter, and this species avoids areas where the depth of snow exceeds 150 mm, preferring areas where the snow is either shallower or highly compressed.

Corsac Foxes appear to depend on distribution of ground squirrels and marmots for food and shelter (the burrows being enlarged and used for refuge).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Development in Kazakhstan in the mid-1850s caused a significant reduction of Corsac numbers in previously undisturbed habitats. In the 20th century several catastrophic population declines were recorded. During such crashes hunting on Corsac Foxes in the former Soviet Union was banned. For example, hunting of Corsac Foxes was stopped within the entire Kazakhstan territory from 1928 to 1938. Current population status, and the nature of major threats, is unknown in most regions. The western part of the range populations are recovering and their range expanding. In Kalmikiya large desert areas are changing into grass steppes, less suitable for corsac foxes. In Middle Asia and Kazakhstan a dramatic decrease of livestock during the last decade influenced many ecosystems and wildlife populations. However, the exact influence of this process on corsac populations remains unknown.

Corsac Fox pelts have been intensively traded. In general, over much of Russia during the 19th century, as many as 40,000–50,000 pelts were traded in some years. For the time being, Corsac pelts are not as highly appreciated as Red Fox pelts, and Corsac Foxes are usually trapped only incidentally.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Not listed on CITES Appendices.

Hunting of Corsac Foxes is regulated by special national legislation, in which the species is considered a fur-bearer species (Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia). Trapping/hunting is allowed only from November through March in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Certain methods of hunting are prohibited, such as digging or smoking animals out of dens, den flooding, and poisoning.

Corsac Foxes are protected in strict nature reserves (the highest protection status for the territory) and in national parks in China, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia.

No special conservation programmes have been carried out. Outside of protected areas, the Corsac has the status of game species.

All hunting and trading of Corsac Foxes is illegal in Afghanistan having been placed in 2009 on the country’s Protected Species List.

Corsac Foxes breed well in captivity. In Moscow Zoo, during the 1960s, one pair of Corsac Foxes produced six litters during the time that they remained together. Corsac Foxes are easily habituated to humans.

Gaps in knowledge
There are several aspects of this species' biology that require investigation, including social organization and behaviour, population structure, current distribution and population status in different regions, current levels of trapping/hunting impact, and other threats to the species.

Bibliography [top]

Baillie, J. and Groombridge, B. (comps and eds). 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Dinnik, N. 1914. Mammals of Caucasus. Tipografia K.P. Kozlovskogo. Tiflis, Russian Empire.

Groombridge, B. (ed.). 1994. 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN. 1990. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Ognev, S. I. 1931. Mammals of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia, Vol. 2. Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem.

Sillero-Zubiri, C., Hoffmann, M. and Macdonald, D.W. (eds). 2004. Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Verezhagin, N. K. 1959. Mammals of Caucasus. Nauka, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Poyarkov, A. & Ovsyanikov, N. 2008. Vulpes corsac. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 19 April 2014.
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