Reports cry wolf - but UAE expert says it was probably a fox

Dubai Municipality specialist says there have been no sightings of Arabian wolves in the UAE in decades.

An Arabian fox, above, was probably responsible for an attack blamed on a wolf, an expert says. Courtesy: Reza Khan / Dubai Municipality
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DUBAI // A wildlife expert has dismissed rumours of a recent attack by an Arabian wolf in Fujairah as a shaggy dog story.

Media reports this week said an Emirati farmer had been attacked and bitten on the leg by a wolf, which was killed after it tried to attack him and other farmers again.

But Dr Reza Khan, a specialist in animals and zoo management at Dubai Municipality, said the beast was most probably “an oversized or overgrown Arabian fox”.

Dr Khan said there had been no sightings of the wolves in the UAE wilderness for decades, although they were still around in Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

“I have never heard of sightings of an Arabian wolf in the last few decades,” he said. “As far as I know, only Dubai Zoo had a female living Arabian wolf that was collected from the Dubai desert in the mid-1970s and remained alive in the zoo up to the mid-1990s.”

He said the animal was probably a subspecies of the common red fox, which was distinguishable by its reddish tinge, red masking and white stripes on its body.

“On the other hand, the Arabian wolf is a pale brown or grey-brown carnivore with no red on its body and the eye-masking is white,” he said. “Size-wise, it is almost double, reaching up to 20 kilograms.

“A desert subspecies of the Arabian wolf is the smallest and palest of all but still several times larger than a fox. It looks more like a smaller version of the popular breed of Alsatian or German shepherd.”

Dr Khan said people should see a doctor immediately if attacked by an animal.

“They could carry rabies and the victim should be taken to the hospital,” he said.

“When a person is bitten by a wild animal caution must be taken and victims should be observed by a proper physician for any signs of rabies.

“In many countries such victims are often given anti-rabies vaccines.”