Wolf
Wolf (Canis lupus) is regularly seen during our trips onto the Tibetan Plateau. The subspecies seen is C. l. chanco. Commonly known as Tibetan Wolf, it has been proposed as part of a possible split called Himalayan wolf but recent studies suggest it is separate. It is usually seen in smaller packs of around five animals and often in singles and pairs and observe it both as a nocturnal and diurnal hunter. We have recorded a pair of animals killing a young Yak, ripping the carcass into portions and then carrying it away. However, apart from domestic kills, we suspect that small pack sizes suggest that scavenging, especially dead domestic animals, and smaller wild prey, like pika, marmot and hare, make up much of their diet, We have seen animals scavenge around Snow Leopard kills and, after encounters close to urban areas, suspect them of scavenging from rubbish dumps or town/village abattoirs. Animals also have contact with the feral dogs and, although Tibetan Mastiffs will chase and attack, on one occasion a single wolf has been seen scavenging with a pack of dogs. However, we have never seen any obvious signs of hybridization between wolf and domestic dogs. Mostly seen on grassland habitat they have also been recorded in alpine forest that borders the Tibetan Plateau, where Siberian Roe, and other ungulates could be targets. Even though they are protected, wolves are persecuted with a trade in wolf skins. However, there seems to be a level of local tolerance and acceptance that is different from the paranoia that often accompanies their presence in the west.

 

Wolf Pack
This pack of six wolves is not a common sight - we mostly see as individuals or pairs.

 

Tibetan Fox
Tibetan Fox (Vulpes ferrilata) is commonly seen in areas that contain large populations of Plateau Pika. It is a specialist in pika hunting and uses smell to locate, and then dig for, underground animals. It is also a kleptoparasite and have observed it trying to steal from Upland Buzzard, Steppe Eagle, Asian Badger and fellow foxes. It shares its grassland habitat with Red Fox but can be easily identified by its small size, short legs, blue-grey flanks and distinctively broad face shape. Seen both during day and night it, unlike Red Fox, is confined to habitat that contains pika. However, its diet can vary, we have observed animals stealing food from a workers canteen tent, and trying to steal zokor from an Asian Badger but doesn’t seem as adaptive as Red Fox and mainly reliant in its survival on a plentiful supply of pika. Tibetan Fox can also be a prey item and have seen being hunted by Golden Eagle.

 

 

Tibetan Fox habitat
Typical Tibetan Fox habitat - pika rich pasture

 

Red Fox
Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes), should have a wide distribution in upland areas, but we only commonly record on the Tibetan Plateau and we have infrequently seen on grassland areas of Balang Mountain. It will occupy all habitats on the plateau and, although a pika hunter, its distribution is not restricted to their presence and must also hunt birds, rodents and hares. Although they must also be scavengers we have not seen or heard evidence of urban colonisation – even in plateau towns where scavenging opportunities must be rich. These niches seem to be taken by large populations of feral dogs.