The Bengal fox, also known as the Indian fox, is a species of Asian foxes endemic to the Indian subcontinent. This is a medium-sized fox with an elongated muzzle with black hair in small patches on the upper part of the muzzle. Its large, bushy, black-tipped tail is its most prominent feature, accounting for as much as 60% of the length of its body. Usually the tail trails behind but when the fox is running, it carries its tail horizontally, then holds it vertically when making sudden turns. The color of the fox’s coat varies according to the season and within a population but is usually gray on the back and paler on the belly, with dark brown on the ears, with black edges. Their ears are large in comparison to their body and are possibly an adaptation for thermoregulation in their hot and dry habitats.
The Bengal fox is native to the Indian subcontinent. It also inhabits the Himalayan foothills and the Terai area of Nepal through to southern India and from eastern and southern Pakistan to the east of India and southeastern Bangladesh. These foxes prefer foothills and non-forested areas such as thorny scrub, open grassland, semi-desert and arid environments. Some are found in agricultural fields, and they are not generally afraid of humans.
The Bengal fox is generally most active after dawn and before dusk. During the day’s heat, they hide away under vegetation or in large underground dens that they dig. The dens are complex, having many rooms and escape routes. These foxes are sometimes seen basking at vantage points around sunrise or sunset. Bengal foxes live in pairs but usually hunt alone. The basic social unit consists of one breeding pair but bigger groups may form when pups grow up but remain in the area where they were born. Female foxes have been known to share dens while their young are drinking their milk, and four adults have been observed coming out of the same den. Territories consist of a single den or several dens and the foraging area nearby. Dens are reused and become larger over time. Bengal foxes use scratches and scent markings to indicate their territories and the areas where they have recently hunted.
Bengal foxes are usually monogamous and form pair bonds that may last for their lifetime. The breeding season is from December to January, announced by digging a new den or re-excavating an old one. Pups are born from January to March. The gestation period is 50-60 days, and between 3 to 6 kits are born within a den. Both mother and father help to raise the kits, which are weaned at about 1 month old. The young are sometimes nursed by a number of females. In the daytime, they are likely to rest under bushes, but in summer they rest in dens. Independence is reached at 4-5 months old and sexual maturity by 1-2 years old.
Bengal foxes are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, roadkills, persecution, and changes to native species populations due to parasites or pathogens. Hunting for its flesh, skin and body parts, the latter for traditional medicine, and for sport, and conversion of its habitat to industry, agriculture and, in particular, bio-fuel plantations, are further threats. Another major threat is disease, including rabies and canine distemper virus from the large populations of dogs that range freely throughout its area.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Bengal fox total population size. Currently this species is clssified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List; however its numbers today are decreasing.