Vulpes ferrilata 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Canidae

Scientific Name: Vulpes ferrilata Hodgson, 1842
Common Name(s):
English Tibetan Fox
French Renard sable du Thibet

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-07-22
Assessor(s): Harris, R.
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M. & Sillero-Zubiri, C.
Contributor(s): Schaller, G.B. & Ginsberg, J.
The Tibetan Fox is widespread in the steppes and semi-deserts of the Tibetan Plateau, and is also present in Nepal, in the Mustang Region, and in Ladakh. There are no major threats to the species at present, although poisoning of pikas (a major prey item) in much of the Tibetan plateau poses a concern. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that the species is currently undergoing a decline that would warrant listing in a threatened category.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Widespread in the steppes and semi-deserts of the Tibetan Plateau from the Ladakh area of India, east across China including parts of the Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan provinces and all of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and into Yunnan (Gong and Hu 2003, Wang 2003, Namgail and Bagchi 2005, Clark et al. 2008, Wozencraft 2008, Jnawali et al. 2011). Also present in Nepal north of the Himalaya, known specifically from the Mustang area (Schaller and Ginsberg 2004). There are no confirmed records for Bhutan.
Countries occurrence:
China (Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Tibet [or Xizang], Xinjiang, Yunnan); India (Jammu-Kashmir); Nepal
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):2500
Upper elevation limit (metres):5200
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In general, Tibetan Fox occur at low densities. Fox abundance depends partly on prey availability and partly on human hunting pressure. In northwest Tibet, in a remote region of desert steppe with little prey, only five foxes were seen in 1,848 km of driving. In southwest Qinghai in a benign environment with much prey, 15 foxes were tallied in 367 km (Schaller 1998). In Serxu county, northwest Sichuan Province, an area with abundant with Black-lipped Pika (Ochotona curzoniae), eight Tibetan Foxes were sighted along 11 km of country road during a night count in 2001 (Anonymous 2000), and 27 sightings (at least 12 individuals) were recorded along line transects in the same area in August 2003 (Wang Xiaoming and Wang Zhenghuan pers. obs.). More recent studies with marked animals (Liu et al. 2007) have suggested that Tibetan Foxes can achieve relatively high densities where preferred prey is abundant and human hunting pressure low. Densities of 2-4/km² may occur. A very coarse and unreliable estimation of population density of Tibetan Foxes in the Tibetan Autonomous Region was provided by Piao (1989), which extrapolated to an estimate of 37,000.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species is found in upland plains and hills from about 2,500–5,200 m (Clark et al. 2008); however, the preponderance of Tibetan Fox habitat is >3,000 m, and the majority of that > 4,000 m. Most of its habitat consists of sparse grasslands devoid of trees and shrubs (Wang et al. 2007; although see also Gong and Hu 2003), particularly where Black-lipped Pikas are abundant. It appears that Tibetan Foxes are closely tied to the presence of pikas, and may in fact be an obligate predator (Harris et al. in press). Tibetan Foxes appear particularly adept at capturing pikas (including, at times, following brown bears Ursus arctos excavating pika burrows in order to capture pikas that escape; Harris et al. 2008), and are rarely encountered where pikas are absent. They also feed on carrion, and other small mammals (Zheng 1985). Tibetan Foxes spend considerable time resting in small burrows, hollows and rock crevasses (Wang et al. 2003). They are most active at dawn and dusk, although can be seen at any time of the day (Wang et al. 2004).
Generation Length (years):3-4

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Hunting and snaring occurs for the pelt (which is used to make hats), but is not common because the coarse pelts of Tibetan Foxes are of minor value.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no major threats to the species at present. Ongoing government-sponsored programmes involving poisoning of pikas, the main prey, takes place across much of the Tibetan plateau and poses the main threat; secondary poisoning of Tibetan Foxes may occur, although does not appear to be common. However, reductions or complete elimination of their major prey would certainly be damaging to Tibetan Fox populations. If such pika reduction programmes continue or increase, the status of the Tibetan Fox would require reassessment. Domestic dogs can kill Tibetan Foxes, and may be a major source of mortality in some areas (Wang et al. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Not listed on the CITES Appendices.
The species is legally protected in several large Chinese reserves, including Arjin Shan (45,000 km²), Xianza (40,000 km²), Chang Tang (ca. 334,000 km²), Kekexili (ca. 45,000 km²), and Sanjiangyuan (ca. 152,000 km²) (Schaller and Ginsberg 2004). However, actual protection remains minimal. Likely to occur in other protected areas throughout the species' range. The species is not known to be held in any formal conservation breeding programme, although some animals may be held in a few zoos.

Despite recent studies that have helped further understanding of the species' biology, very little remains known of their natural history.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.4. Shrubland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.7. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
8. Desert -> 8.2. Desert - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Area based regional management plan:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:Not Applicable
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:No
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Unknown
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:No
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:No decline ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.2. Unintentional effects (species is not the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.3. Indirect ecosystem effects
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology

♦  Wearing apparel, accessories
 Local : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Anonymous. 2000. Serxu county annals. Sichuan People Publishing House, Chengdu, China.

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

Clark Jr., H.O., Newman, D.P., Murdoch, J.D., Tseng, J., Wang Z.H. and Harris, R.B. 2008. Vulpes ferrilata. Mammalian Species 821: 1-6.

Gong, M. and Hu, J.C. 2003. The summer microhabitat selection of Tibetan fox in the northwest plateau of Sichuan (in Chinese). Acta Theriologica Sinica 23: 267-269.

Harris, R.B., Wang, Z.H., Zhou, J.K. and Liu, Q.X. 2008. Notes on biology of the Tibetan fox (Vulpes ferrilata). Canid News 11: 1-7.

Harris, R.B., Zhou,J.K., Ji, Y.Q., Zhang, K., Yang, Y.H. and Yu, D. in press. Evidence that the Tibetan fox is an obligate predator of the plateau pika: conservation implications. Journal of Mammalogy.

IUCN. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. Available at: (Accessed: 13 November 2014).

Jiang, W.B., Wang, X.M., Li, M. and Wang, Z.H. 2011. Identification of the Tibetan fox (Vulpes ferrilata) and the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) by copro-DNA diagnosis. Molecular Ecology Resources 11: 206-210.

Jnawali, S.R., Baral, H.S., Lee, S., Acharya, K.P., Upadhyay, G.P., Pandey, M., Shrestha, R., Joshi, D., Lamichhane, B.R., Griffiths, J., Khatiwada, A.P., Subedi, N., and Amin, R. (compilers). 2011. The Status of Nepal Mammals: The National Red List Series. Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Liu, Q.X., Harris, R.B. and Wang X.M. 2010. Food habits of Tibetan fox (Vulpes ferrilata) in the Kunlun Mountains, Qinghai Province, China. Mammalian Biology 75: 283-286.

Liu, Q.X., Harris, R.B., Wang, X.M. and Wang, Z.H. 2007. Home range size and overlap of Tibetan foxes (Vulpes ferrilata) in Dulan County, Qinghai Province. Acta Theriologica Sinica 27: 370-375.

Namgail, T., and Bagchi, S. 2005. Occurrence of the Tibetan sand fox Vulpes ferrilata Hodgson in Ladakh: a new record for the Indian subcontinent. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 102: 217-220.

Piao, R. 1989. Surveying the abundance of Tibetan sand fox in Tibet [in Chinese]. Chinese Wildlife 6: 22-26.

Schaller, G.B. 1998. Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.

Schaller, G.B. and Ginsberg, J. 2004. Tibetan fox Vulpes ferrilata (Hodgson, 1842). In: C. Sillero-Zubiri, M. Hoffmann and D.W. Macdonald (eds), Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, pp. 148-151. IUCN, Gland.

Wang, Y.X. 2003. A Complete Checklist of Mammal Species and Subspecies in China (A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference). China Forestry Publishing House, Beijing, China.

Wang, Z.H., Wang, X.M. and Lu, Q.P. 2004. Observation on the daytime behaviour of Tibetan fox (Vulpes ferrilata) in Shiqu County, Sichuan Province, China (in Chinese, English abstract). Acta Theriologica Sinica 24: 357-360.

Wang, Z.H., Wang, X.M. and Lu, Q.P. 2007. Selection of land cover by the Tibetan fox Vulpes ferrilata on the eastern Tibetan plateau, western Sichuan Province, China. Acta Theriologica 52: 215-223.

Wang, Z.H., Wang, X.M., Wu, W., Giraudoux, P., Qiu, J., Takahashi, K. and Craig, P.S. 2003. Characteristics of summer Tibetan Fox (Vulpes ferrilata) den habitats. Acta Theriologica Sinica 23: 31-38.

Wozencraft, W.C. 2008. Order Carnivora. In: A.T. Smith and Y. Xie (eds), A Guide to the Mammals of China, pp. 576. Princeton University Press.

Zheng, S.W. 1985. Data on the food of Tibetan Sand Fox. Acta Theriologica Sinia 5: 222.

Citation: Harris, R. 2014. Vulpes ferrilata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T23061A46179412. . Downloaded on 20 June 2018.
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