The Egyptian Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes aegyptiacus) is the largest fox in Egypt and one of three species of fox occurring in Sinai. I’ve never spotted a fox while wandering through wadis [UPDATE: I have now! See the extra pics below.], but over the years I’ve spotted several from moving vehicles. Always magical to see! But difficult to capture with a camera. (Especially if you’re the one driving.) One night, though, we were treated to a visit by a fox – a fox intent on stealing some fish!
We had driven up one of the wadis behind Dahab with Eid, a Bedouin friend, who had promised to make us a traditional meal cooked over a campfire. (You can read more about the watermelon fettah here. It was delicious!) As the men were preparing the food, this fox came inching closer and closer, drawn by the scent of fish. Eid put the fish on a small raised platform to keep it away from the fox but that didn’t deter it.
The fox also didn’t seem bothered by the flash from my camera. He was persistent, but the fox never did get the fish and was eventually shooed away by Eid’s young son.
The Egyptian Red Fox lives elsewhere in Egypt and only relatively recently did they expand into South Sinai, most likely related to the increasing spread of human activity. These foxes are not foxes of true deserts. They inhabit vegetated wadis, farmland, gardens, and desert margins. We spotted this Red Fox several years ago, when tourism in Dahab was booming and this wadi was a popular destination for tourists to enjoy a desert dinner. Our Bedouin friend said this helped explain why the fox was around, feeding on leftovers, and not so scared of humans.
The foxes are nocturnal and eat insects, small rodents, fish, fruit, and vegetables. In Ras Mohamed, they are known to dig for crabs.
Although they are commonly called Red Foxes, this subspecies is not red, but more of a ruddy grey-brown. They have large ears and the hair on the back of the ears is black. Their tails are bushy and white-tipped and they have a darker-colored streak that runs from their muzzle to their eyes. Facial markings are a distinguishing feature among foxes and so can help identify the species. I am no expert, of course, and at first had thought this was a Rüppell’s Sand Fox, another species found in Sinai, but I have learned that the Sand Foxes have very distinctive black marks under their eyes. Tail color and proportion is another distinguishing feature; the Blanford’s Fox, also found here, has the longest tail of Egyptian foxes and it’s dark-tipped.
If you’re like me, though, you’ll be delighted to spot a fox in South Sinai, no matter what the species!
UPDATE: We encountered a beautiful fox in Wadi Um Ma in January 2018. We were able to watch him from a distance for several minutes before we went our separate ways.
Hoath, Richard. (2003). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.