Carnivores of Spiti valley

Tibetan Wolf

The Tibetan Wolf is one of the oldest surviving species of wolves in the world. The Tibetan Wolf dates back to 8,00,000 years and is considered to be the parent species of all the cannids in the world. Also known as the Woolly Wolf, the Tibetan Wolf is a gray wolf subspecies which is found from Turkestan throughout to Tibet and Mongolia and also parts of the Indian Himalaya. The fur of the Tibetan wolf is intermixed with black and grey hairs while its chest, belly and part of the legs are white. Weighing in at about 45kgs, this is particular wolf is bigger than the Indian Wolf and is also bolder and more aggressive. The Tibetan wolves hunt in pairs and alone and only rarely is seen in larger numbers. Though they are not nocturnal, they rest during a hot day. Only the dominant male and female breed, hierarchy is maintained by the pack and the Tibetan Wolf can live upto 10 years.

Prey: Hares, sheep and goats.
Best time for sighting: While winters (November to March) is the best time for the sighting of the wolf, there is a reasonable possibility in April and then in the months of September and October too.

Lynx

Also known as the Eurasian Lynx, the Himalayan Lynx is the biggest of the lynxes. Distinguishing it from other cats are the erect tufts of hair on the tips of its pointed ears. Besides Spiti, Ladakh, Tibet and Pakistan, the Himalayan Lynx is also found in China, Eastern Asia and Russia. The Lynx usually inhabits areas at an altitude of 4250 – 4575m and lives solitarily as an adult, though groups of three or four are been seen occasionally. A nocturnal animal by nature, the Lynx is most active in the evening and morning while it rests around mid-day and midnight.
Eurasian lynx are secretive animals and their presence in an area may go unnoticed for years. The Lynx can both stalk its prey and also ambush. The Lynx is a highly endangered species and in Spiti and Ladakh area there are estimated to be no more than 50-60 left. Smaller than leopards, the fur of this wild cat is generally long and soft. Eurasian lynx can weigh from 18 to 36 kg. Wolves and lynx co-exist without any problems because their prey and hunting techniques are different. The lynx has a short tail, large paws and long whiskers on its face. The chest, belly and the inside of the legs has white fur. The lynx can survive up to 17 years in the wild.
Mating takes place in the winter and the young stay with the mother for approximately a year. Outside of the Tibetan plateau the Eurasian Lynx is commonly found in Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and parts of Russia.

Prey: In Spiti the Lynx preys on hares, partridges, pheasants and blue sheep.
Best time for sighting: While winters (November to March) is the best time for the sighting of the wolf, there is a reasonable possibility in April and then in the months of September and October too.

Snow Leopard

The snow leopard is found in 12 countries in Asia and is undoubtedly the cat to see in the Spiti desert. These animals prefer the steep cliffs and the rugged terrain of Spiti and there are few big cats that have fascinated mankind as much as the snow leopard. Its elusive nature and has made it one of the most sought after predators amongst wildlife enthusiast. In Spiti valley the snow leopard Spiti is found in the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary and the Pin Valley National Park.
A moderately large cat, the snow leopard in the summer inhabits an area between 3500m to 6700m. This cat can weigh between 27 to 55 kgs but occasionally a male can grow to 75kgs. With a relatively short body, the snow leopard has a long and thick tail and these animals are stocky and short-legged. Snow leopards have long and thick fur. Their ears are small and rounded which along with its stocky build and thick fur helps to minimize heat loss. Their wide paws help distributing weight better for walking on snow, and the long tail helps them to maintain their balance. Interestingly the snow leopard cannot roar. The snow leopard leads a largely solitary life but the mother may raise cubs in dens for long. The snow leopard lives within a well-defined home range, but does not defend its territory aggressively. Like other cats this animal use scent marks to indicate their territories. India has the 3rd largest population of the snow leopard in the world after China and Mongolia.

Prey: The snow leopard would prey on the blue sheep, ibex, hare, snow cock and rodents.
Best time for sighting: While winters (November to March) is the best time for the sighting of the snow leopard.

Tibetan Fox

The Tibetan red fox is found in abundance in Spiti and in Ladakh. These small and compact animals have dense coats, long bushy tails and short ears. The Tibetan fox is a solitary animal and hunts during the day. Their burrows are made at the base of boulders and the dens may have four entrances. The coat is reddish and when in spring the fox sheds its coat it is barely recognizable. They are not social animals like wolves but red foxes are said to pair for life. A pair may occupy the same den year after year and is found at an altitude between 3000m to 5500m in Spiti. These animals weigh between 3 and 4 kgs and have wide heads with big eyes.

Prey: Hares, lizards, rodents, carcasses of blue sheep and ibex.
Best time for sighting: Throughout the year. Chances are better if you have couple of days

Weasels

These small, active predators with long bodies and short legs are a bit hard to spot but are found both in Pin valley and Kibber wildlife sanctuary. The weasels are clever, quick and feed on small mammals. Weasels are usually brown with white underparts. In winter the coats of weasels turn white and interestingly enough the tail hairs are used to make artists’ paintbrushes. Weasels are bold and aggressive and generally hunt alone. Their narrow bodies allow them to capture rodents in their burrows. The male weasel mates with multiple partners do not give parental care. The weasel is amongst the smallest of all carnivores and is found in every continent exception for Australia. Young weasels develop quickly and when they are only two months old they able to hunt small prey. Though small, their teeth are incredibly sharp and are capable to take on animals double their size.

Prey: Mice, rabbits and bird eggs.
Best time for sighting: Throughout the year. Sighting chances are good in April, May and September and October.

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