Corsac - © Jim ScarffProjects
English: Corsac Fox; French: Renard corsac; German: steppenfuchs, korsakfuchs
The Corsac is found in central Asia, ranging into Mongolia and northeastern China. Populations fluctuate significantly, and population decreases are dramatic, caused by catastrophic climatic events, and numbers can drop tenfold within the space of a single year. Corsac foxes have the ability to forego water and food for extended periods of time. They are well adapted to a hot and dry climate. Current population status, and the nature of major threats, is unknown in most regions. However, the species is not considered threatened at present.
Habitat and Ecology:
The Corsac typically inhabits steppes, semi-deserts and deserts, avoiding mountains, forested areas and dense bush. In the western part of the range they occur in low-grass steppe, avoiding dense and tall grass steppes. In Kaspyi Sea region the steppes and tarragon-cereal semi-deserts are favoured. It also occurs in fixed-sand habitats (Nogaiskaya Steppe). In Volgo-Ural watershed the Corsac inhabits most usual habitats, but prefers semi-deserts. To the east of the Ural Mountains, the species inhabits steppes and in favourable years occurs even in forested steppes. In Kazakhstan typical habitats are low grass steppes and semi-deserts, often inhabiting low hills, but avoiding low mountains. In Middle-Asia it inhabits semi-deserts and ephemeral-deserts, avoiding drifting sands. One limiting factor is snow height in winter, and this species avoids areas where the depth of snow exceeds 150 mm, preferring areas where the snow is either shallower or highly compressed.
Corsac Foxes appear to depend on distribution of ground squirrels and marmots for food and shelter (the burrows being enlarged and used for refuge).
Development in Kazakhstan in the mid-1850s caused a significant reduction of Corsac numbers in previously undisturbed habitats. In the 20th century several catastrophic population declines were recorded. During such crashes hunting on Corsac Foxes in the former Soviet Union was banned. For example, hunting of Corsac Foxes was stopped within the entire Kazakhstan territory from 1928 to 1938. Current population status, and the nature of major threats, is unknown in most regions. The western part of the range populations are recovering and their range expanding. In Kalmikiya large desert areas are changing into grass steppes, less suitable for corsac foxes. In Middle Asia and Kazakhstan a dramatic decrease of livestock during the last decade influenced many ecosystems and wildlife populations. However, the exact influence of this process on corsac populations remains unknown.
Corsac Fox pelts have been intensively traded. In general, over much of Russia during the 19th century, as many as 40,000–50,000 pelts were traded in some years. For the time being, Corsac pelts are not as highly appreciated as Red Fox pelts, and Corsac Foxes are usually trapped only incidentally.