26 October 2012

Arabian Red Fox - Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding a few days ago I saw an Arabian Red Fox Vulpes vulpes arabica just before it was getting dark. It was seen in the scrubby desert near to the percolation pond, an area where I have seen animals many times before. Although they are not scarce in the area, they are seldom seen and very rarely allow close approach. When I saw my first one just after arriving in Saudi Arabia I mistakenly thought it was a Ruppell’s Sand Fox due to the size, large ears and colour but was informed that as the animal had a black blaze down its chest it was an Arabian Red Fox. Since then I have only seen the same type of animals and have not recorded Ruppell’s Sand Fox.

The Arabian Red Fox Vulpes vulpes arabica is a subspecies of the Red Fox and is native to Arabia and adapted to life in the desert. It inhabits virtually every environment in Arabia from cities along the coast to desert and mountains. It is the most common of the three fox species found in the Arabian Peninsula, and is one of forty-six subspecies of Red Fox which are distributed throughout the world, particularly the Northern hemisphere. The Arabian Red Fox is small in stature (2.7 – 4.5 kg), has a pale coloured coat, and large ears and is well suited to the desert climate. It is small in size as it doesn’t require such a large body mass to maintain its body heat. It has fur between its toes to prevent it burning its feet on the hot sand. They lack the dense fur of the European subspecies and thus appear to have thin bodies and long legs, but proportionally they are the same, with the exception of the Arabian Red Foxes large ears which are used to maintain the animal’s body temperature as well as allow for excellent hearing. Colouration suits the habitat the fox is found in being pale sandy coloured in the pale sandy desert areas. Its food usually consists of rodents, birds, fish, carrion and some vegetation. Animals are most active at night and can be most often seen at dawn and dusk.