RFI: Blanford’s Fox in Israel

Hi all,

Next month I will be making a short visit to Israel in search of some mammals. I would particularly like to look for Blanford’s Fox although finding a suitable area to search for them is proving difficult. While a good population can be found in Ein Gedi, I understand this reserve closes at night (as do all other reserves in Israel). Furthermore, the town of Karmiel (mentioned as a good place to look on the main mammal watching Israel page) is well out of range for the species according to all the range maps I’ve seen.

I should add that all the Israeli guides I’ve spoken to (albeit bird guides) seen to think I have zero chance of seeing this elusive mammal.

If anyone knows of an area where Blanford’s Fox is known to occur that I could access at night (and preferably drive around without arousing too much suspicion) then I would be very interested to know about it. Any other tips on seeing Blanford’s Fox would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers

Mike Richardson

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14 Comments on “RFI: Blanford’s Fox in Israel”

  1. heavenlyjane Says:

    Can’t help with funding this species in the wild. You can see a captive one at the Hai Bar Reserve in Yotvata, in the far south of Israel (Arava Desert region).

    Also want to make sure you know that there is lodging inside Ein Gedi at the Field Station. It is similar to an outdoor Ed school but will let our rooms if available. There are resident naturalist on staff who are probably intimate familar with the reserve. It’s an amazing place, with ibexes practically guaranteed.

    • Mike Richardson Says:

      Thanks for the info. I didn’t realise it was possible to stay inside Ein Gedi. That’s something I will look into.

  2. Jon Hall Says:

    Mike, I wil let Tomer and others get back to you on Israel. Do you have time to go Jordan? I was told of a site there but that was 20 years ago that could be worth checking out if you are in the area (I’m guessing it was about a 2 hour drive from Aqaba.. which is easy to get to from Israel) . I might be able to remember where it was if you are interested… Jon

  3. tomeslice Says:

    Hey Mike!
    So it was I who thought I had seen them in Karmiel back in the day.. but then I talked to some local guides and realized that the fox I see there is just a paler and skinnier morph of the common red fox.

    I was actually at Ein Gedi yesterday doing some photography homework (yes, I’m taking a photography course…) and the reserve does indeed close an hour or so before the sunset (which is 3:30pm at this season). I drove back to the reserve around 5pm before heading home, after everyone was gone. I didn’t walk in where you’re not allowed to go, but I just walked to the opposite side of the dry riverbed, sat down in the dark and waited a few minutes to see if I can get anything. Within 2 minutes a small fox trotted past me, but from the picture I’m 100% sure it’s just a red fox. A few minutes later another one climbed down the rocks and came within a few feet of me. I didn’t get a picture but i think it’s the red fox again.
    Anyway, if you are sleeping in the area, and especially if you have a 4X4 there are many gravel roads not far from there, with similar habitat, where you might look. If you want company I’d be more than happy to hold the tourch while you drive, or the other way around.

    The guides in Israel aren’t yet very familiar with the concept of trying to find rare and nocturnal animals. It’s like your typical “nature” guide in Costa Rica who would tell you kinkajous are rare. I feel like if nobody goes looking for nocturnal animals at night, how can they assess how common or rare they are?

    I guess I’d recommend getting to the reserve as early as it opens, spend some time far away from the entrance, and then later in the day when it gets warmer, spend some time talking to the local guides about where one would go about finding it at night, to get more specific info. I didn’t talk to them at all, cause I was doing my photography stuff…

    Cheers,
    Tomer

    P.S. You have my email (right?) and Facebook. I’d be happy to join you on your search.

    • Mike Richardson Says:

      Hi Tomer, thanks for the info. I will be visiting Israel in the last week of February with a couple of friends who are also birders. Once we have a rough itinerary sorted I will contact you with the details. It would be great to meet up for some mammal watching.

  4. vdinets Says:

    I don’t know how it works today, but it used to be possible to either hike the canyon that ends in Ein Gedi starting from above (there are a few possible entry points; look it up in Google Earth), or to hide inside, wait until the security guys escort everybody out, and have the entire reserve to yourself for the night. In 1993 I saw a leopard there using the second method. I’m pretty sure your chances for Blanford’s fox are higher upstream from the reserve fence because inside the reserve the habitat is not sufficiently arid and there are too many red foxes. That said, in 1993 I worked for a Bedouin family living in the upper part of the canyon for two weeks and never saw a Blanford’s fox, or any mammals other than hyrax, spiny mice, and one species of bat in a small cave (which was a lucky find because those bats were later split as Plecotus christiei). The only Blanford’s I did see in Israel was in the canyons above Eilat, near a spring called Ein Netafim.

    • Mike Richardson Says:

      Thanks Vladimir. If Leopard is more easily seen than the fox I don’t rate my chances!

      • tomeslice Says:

        Yeah, let me know!

        As far as leopards in Ein Gedi, they’re considered extinct in the entire Judaean desert. Although there was one photographed in the botanical garden in Ein Gedi Kibbutz (not far from the reserve) in 2006.
        How easy is it to tell the differences between the two fox species in the field? I know from the individual I took a picture of yesterday – it had a white tip at the end of the tail, and shorter ear-to-head ratio, which to me means it’s definitely a red fox, although it was barely reddish, more grayish. The foxes in Israel, especially in the desert, are much slimmer than the red foxes in the states, and are much duller in color (which is why I thought the ones I saw in Karmiel were blanford’s, especially with their hebrew name translating to “cliff fox” and that’s the habitat I saw it in Karmiel).

        Either way, let me know! I’d be happy to join for some mammal watching and/or a cold beer. Also, there are plenty of birds I would still like to see in Israel, including some of the larger owls.

        Cheers!
        Tomer

  5. vdinets Says:

    Blanford’s has very prominent black tail tip, and generally looks and moves a bit like the grey fox of North America. Ruppell’s fox is also small, big-eared and with black face spots, but it has white tail tip. The difficult part is telling Ruppell’s from desert-type red foxes.

  6. brugiere dominique Says:

    I will be be in Isrsael in Larch and beginning of April. My main target also Blanford fox;
    they are 2 good places. Eilat mountain near
    ein Netafim. Last year I saw small scats at this very arid place and am pretty sure they were from this species. I will try again.
    theey are several access of Eilat Mountain on their east side.
    On the eastern side of the mountain there is an access.You are allowed to camp, but not to drive by night (but you can walk)
    South of Ein Gedi and not far there is a touristic place(national park), important in jews history (I have not the name now because I am now in Colombo airport, on my way back home) where you can walk by night on the east side and drive from the western side. You can sleep inside on the western side (camping only); outisde I drove and saw only red fox and wolf on the plateau, but the rocky place near the park is the perfect habitat for the fox.
    If you get it before I am in Israel, please tell me.

    Good luck

    Dominique BRUGIERE

  7. Michael Kessler Says:

    I saw what I believe what a Blanford’s Fox at the rubbish dump south of En Gedi in 1995. I do not know how access is now, but back then we just drove there, parked at a vantage point and turned on the headlights every 15-30 minutes. In two nights we saw several foxes (mainly red and the one possible Blanford’s) plus a jackal and a wolf but not the striped hyena that apparently also showed up every now and then.

  8. Richard Webb Says:

    Mike, I know that Richard Moores and the Punkbirders saw Blanford’s on trips to Israel in 2013 and 2014.

    I have sent you his contact details by email.

    Regards

    Richard


  9. Dominique, Michael and Richard, many thanks for the additional replies. I wasn’t expecting so much help with this particular RFI.


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