At a distance we noticed something unusual, the extended golden hour of the Thar desert was doing us an invaluable favor. It was not a stray dog from the neighboring village, nor was it any other animal. It turned out to be a Fox, mostly Desert Fox – if yes, then my first. And what a place to see it, right in the middle of the Desert National Park and in its absolute habitat.
Let me introduce the Desert Fox – Their yellowish coat is sand colored, acting as a perfect camouflage. They are mostly solitary (barring breading season) and build simple dens with whatever is available. Largely omnivorous and opportunistic feeders, they have adapted well to survive all the climatic challenges of the desert.
However, when the parenthood in them kicks in, strategy takes precedence. Everything, from the type of den to what they hunt to eat and feed their pups are all carefully planned.
Shelter – They build much more complex dens with multiple entires to confuse predators and keep them at bay.
Food – They stick to high protein diet, however target rodents underneath so that the kill is discreet and doesn’t invite much attention.
All this and much more is a must do, as pups are completely defenseless for almost two weeks post birth. They are heavily dependent on parents for everything literally.
This day we got to encounter the tactful predator, head on. Foxes are known for their keen observation skills and clever decision making abilities. If the speculation is right, this solitary canid had been keeping a watch on our movements. When we unknowingly got close, he took to the shade to use it as a natural camouflage. What he perhaps didn’t know, was that his sun-glittered eye gave away his presence.
With so much action and surprise in the scene, one basic question struck me – Is this the Desert Fox or an Indian Fox?
The Desert Fox, (also known White-footed fox) is a subspecies of the red fox. Closely resembling the unrelated Indian Fox (Bengal fox) but distinguished by white-legs, rufous face and dark marking around the eyes. While all this could be confusing, one noticeable feature that wouldn’t mislead is the tail. The Indian fox has a black-tipped tail however the Desert Fox has a tail brushed with white.
We realized, given the ambient light and posture, none of these distinct features but the tail marking could come to our rescue and satisfy the ID quest. However, nature had its own adamant ways and showed us our place. Seconds became minutes but the fox wouldn’t move a bit.. In the due course waiting, I made all possible images flirting with light and camera settings, and it was finally time to leave with the basic question unanswered.
The debate in my mind continues till date, while I want to believe this was a Desert Fox (owing to the habit and whatever features were visible), I cant be completely sure.
What do you suggest? Is this a Desert Fox or an Indian fox?
To witness and experience nature and wildlife stories such as this, please continue to visit lenstrails.com.