Vulpes ferrilata


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Vulpes ferrilata
Species Authority: 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: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Schaller, G.B., Ginsberg, J.R. & Harris, R.
Reviewer(s): Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)
The Tibetan Fox is widespread in the steppes and semi-deserts of the Tibetan Plateau, and is also present in Nepal north of the Himalaya. In general, population depends partly on prey availability and partly on human hunting pressure. The species is not considered threatened at present.
2004 Least Concern

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). Also present in Nepal north of the Himalaya, known specifically from the Mustang area. There are no confirmed records for Bhutan.
China; India; Nepal
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: 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 south-west Qinghai in a benign environment with much prey, 15 foxes were tallied in 367 km (Schaller 1998). In Serxu county, north-west Sichuan Province, an area with abundant with black lipped pika (Ochotona curzoniae), eight Tibetan Foxes were sighted along 11 km 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.).

However, 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 (R.B. Harris pers. comm., 2008). 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.
Population Trend: Unknown

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). 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. Although definitive studies have yet to be conducted, it appears that Tibetan Foxes are closely tied to the presence of pikas, and may in fact be an obligate predator. 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 or hollows (Wang et al. 2003). They are most active at dawn and dusk, although can be seen at any time of the day.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is not believed to be under serious threat. Hunting and snaring occurs, but is not common because the coarse pelts of Tibetan Foxes are of minor value. Domestic dogs can kill Tibetan Foxes, and may be a major source of mortality in some areas (Wang et al. 2007). More insidious threats are ongoing government-sponsored programmes of poisoning pikas in much of the Tibetan plateau. 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.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Not listed in 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). However, actual protection remains minimal. Likely to occur in other protected areas throughout the species' range, but no reliable information available. The species lacks special protection outside reserves.

Gaps of knowledge
All aspects of the fox's natural history needs to be studied.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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

Citation: Schaller, G.B., Ginsberg, J.R. & Harris, R. 2008. Vulpes ferrilata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 21 October 2014.
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