Golden Jackal

Golden Jackal

The golden jackal (Canis aureus) is a medium-sized canid species found widely across North and East Africa, Southeast Europe, and South and Central Asia. In Nepal, golden jackals inhabit grasslands, scrublands, agricultural areas, and the edges of forests predominantly in the Terai region. They have tan to golden brown fur and weigh between 8-15 lbs as adults. 

Golden jackals are omnivorous and opportunistic foragers, feeding on small mammals, birds, reptiles, fruits, insects, and carrion. They live in breeding pairs that maintain territories and have complex social interactions and cooperative breeding behaviors.

Golden jackals play an important ecological role in Nepal. As opportunistic predators, they help regulate and control populations of rodents and other small pest species. They also help limit disease transmission by scavenging carcasses and organic waste. Their feeding and ranging behaviors facilitate seed dispersal for some plant species across the landscape. 

As a native species well-adapted to human-modified habitats, and without evidence of negatively impacting threatened prey populations in Nepal, golden jackals are considered to have high conservation value in maintaining balanced, functional ecosystems. Understanding and conserving golden jackal populations is important for preserving Nepal's biodiversity.

Physical Characteristics

Golden jackals have relatively slender builds compared to other canid species in Nepal. Their fur is a distinctive tan to golden brown color, with some black speckling on the back in certain subspecies. They have elongated muzzles and large pointed ears.

Size and Weight

Golden jackals weigh 8-15 lbs as adults. This makes them smaller than the gray wolves of Nepal, which can weigh 30-80 lbs.

Distinctive Features

In addition to their slender build and tan/golden brown coat, golden jackals have bushy black-tipped tails. Their hind legs are also comparatively longer than other canids.


Golden jackals are smaller and less stocky than Nepal's gray wolves. They lack the bushy tails seen in fox species like the Bengal fox and Indian fox. Their coat color is also less variable than Nepal's native foxes. These physical differences help distinguish golden jackals from other similar canid species that occupy the same geographic range.

Habitat and Distribution

Typical Habitats

In Nepal, golden jackals most commonly occupy grasslands, scrublands, and dry deciduous forests. They also thrive along the forest edges and in proximity to human agriculture and livestock grazing areas predominantly in the Terai region.

Geographic Distribution

Golden jackals are found in the Terai lowlands and Shivalik Hills in much of Nepal's central and western regions up to 1,700 m elevation. Their distribution extends eastward in lower densities as far as Makalu Barun National Park abutting the Chinese border.


Golden jackals are highly adaptable canids and thrive in human-modified landscapes across their native range by utilizing a broad diet and flexible social structures. In Nepal, they have adapted to the expansion of agriculture and grazing lands by incorporating livestock, carrion, and cultivated fruits and grains into their omnivorous diet while denning in scrublands and forest patches. Their ability to adapt has allowed golden jackals to become the most widely distributed and abundant wild canid in the country.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Social Structure

Golden jackals mate for life and operate in small family units centered on a breeding pair and their offspring across shared territory. Offspring from previous years often help raise younger pups. In Nepal, they have smaller group sizes averaging 2-6 jackals compared to larger packs in Africa.

Territorial Behavior

Jackal pairs communicate with conspecifics to demarcate territories spanning 2-10 square kilometers in Nepal marked by scent, droppings, and vocalizations. Territories may shift between breeding and non-breeding seasons. Jackals are highly territorial and will cooperatively mob and chase out intruders.

Activity Pattern

Golden jackals are opportunistic foragers and most active at crepuscular and nocturnal hours around dawn and dusk. This allows them to utilize resources like small mammals when they are active while avoiding daytime heat. Their activity levels adjust across seasons - they will rest more during hot daytime hours in summer months and be more diurnal in winter.

Diet and Hunting Patterns

Typical Diet

Golden jackals are opportunistic omnivores. In Nepal, their diet consists of small mammals like rodents, hares, and pikas as well as birds, reptiles, fruits, berries, insects, fish, and carrion. They will scavenge waste from human villages and consume livestock carcasses.


Golden jackals are versatile foragers. They will hunt small animals individually or cooperatively in pairs/family units using their speed and agility. Their keen sense of smell allows them to track prey or locate carrion. They also use their canine teeth to crush bones for marrow.


Jackals provide an important ecosystem service by helping control rodents and other small pest populations. Cases of predation on larger livestock are relatively low in Nepal although retaliatory killings over perceived threats do occur. Their seed dispersal facilitates vegetation growth.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Breeding Season

Golden jackals breed once annually. In Nepal, the breeding season runs from late October through January. Female jackals come into estrous only once per year.

Reproductive Practices

Golden jackals are predominantly monogamous. The adult breeding pair cooperates in raising and nursing pups. Females give birth to a litter of 4-6 pups after a 63-day gestation period using a den in an underground burrow, hollow tree, or thicket.

Offspring Care

For the first few weeks, the female stays with nursing pups while the male provisions the family unit. Older offspring from previous litters often aid in rearing, grooming, playing with, and provisioning younger pups as "helpers." Pups emerge from the den at 3-4 weeks old.


Golden jackals live an average of 8 to 10 years in the wild in Nepal. Their survival depends on the availability of year-round food sources and den sites within the claimed territory.

Cultural Significance

Role in Folklore

Golden jackals feature prominently in Nepalese folk tales and Hindu mythology. They are often characterized as cunning tricksters outwitting more powerful adversaries. Some stories portray jackals as faithful protectors and friends to humans.

Human Interactions

Golden jackals thrive at the edges of villages and farmland across Nepal's Terai region, leading to complex dyadic relationships with humans. Though sometimes blamed for livestock kills, jackals more often scavenge waste areas and their rodent control is valued.


Local attitudes towards jackals vary. Some animistic faiths consider them sacred manifestations carrying messages from the spirit world. However, derogatory idioms like "cunning as a jackal" also reveal more negative associations with deceit. Their prevalence leads to a range of social perceptions.

Spiritual Significance

In Hinduism, jackals are associated with several deities, death rituals, and charnel grounds where they scavenge remains. Lord Shiva wears a jackal hide and is followed by a pack of jackals in some traditions. Goddess Kali's temples may maintain semi-domesticated jackals.

Conservation Status

Population Trends

Golden jackal populations are generally stable and increasing in Nepal as they adapt well to human-altered habitats. As an abundant native species, they are classified as Least Concern on Nepal's National Red List.


Major threats include habitat fragmentation leading to the loss of den sites and a reduction in territory size. Retaliatory killings over livestock predation and traps/poison aimed at other carnivores also impact jackal mortality. Disease transmission from domestic dogs poses a concern.

Habitat Loss

Expanding farmland and roads divide grassland areas and forest patches used by jackal packs in the Terai region. This limits territory size and connectivity between family units.

Conservation Efforts

Golden jackals reside in several protected areas across Nepal, providing habitat refugia. To mitigate retaliatory killings, outreach campaigns promote the use of predator-proof corrals and livestock guard dogs while highlighting jackals’ ecosystem services. Strengthened legal penalties for poisoning wildlife help curb mortality from indiscriminate use of toxins.

Research and Studies in Nepal

Significant Research

Initial studies focused on distribution and threats in protected parks. More recent works analyze genetics, pack dynamics, foraging patterns, and HWC mitigation. Radio-telemetry tracking and camera traps are providing new population and behavioral insights.

Knowledge Gaps

Research has mostly occurred in western regions near Chitwan and Bardia National Parks. Additional ecology studies across the Terai landscape and in eastern Nepal will improve understanding. More data is needed on interspecies competition with wolves and leopards sharing habitat.

Future Research Needs

Suggested priorities include disease surveillance, particularly of rabies and canine distemper virus. Further assessment of the efficacy of predator-proof livestock enclosures in reducing retaliatory killings is warranted. Analyzing range shifts in response to climate change and habitat loss can inform updated protected area management.

Expanding Partnerships

Increasing collaborations between Nepali government agencies, NGOs, and international conservation groups will support more robust golden jackal population monitoring and sustainable conservation planning.


Biodiversity Role

The golden jackal plays an important ecological role within Nepal as a native canid species well-adapted to human-altered landscapes across the Terai lowlands and middle hills regions. Through their opportunistic omnivory, jackals regulate rodent and pest populations, disperse seeds, and scavenge waste, providing valuable ecosystem services that contribute to biodiversity conservation.

Sustained Conservation

With stable and likely increasing golden jackal populations in Nepal, conservation efforts remain important for ensuring adequate habitat connectivity and mitigating key threats like retaliatory killings and disease transmission to protect this ecologically vital species into the future. More research and collaborative management focused explicitly on the golden jackal is warranted within Nepal's conservation agenda.

Concluding Remarks

While not at imminent risk, dedicated multi-stakeholder efforts pairing community engagement programs, policy measures, expanded ecological research, and maintenance of habitat refugia through Nepal's protected area system will provide further benefits to sustaining viable golden jackal populations across their native Nepali range into the future while promoting human-wildlife coexistence.


Aryal, A. et al. (2014). "Food habit and prey species preference of golden jackal Canis aureus in the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal." Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(12): 6445–6454.

Jnawali, S.R. et al. (compilers). (2011). The Status of Nepal Mammals: The National Red List Series, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Kathmandu.

Khatiwada L. and Chalise M.K. (2017). "Golden jackal (Canis aureus Linnaeus, 1758) from Eastern Plains of Nepal: First photographic evidence." Zoo's Print 32(4): 7-9.

Paudel, P.K. and Jnawali, S.R. (compilers). (2012). The Status and Distribution of Golden Jackal Canis aureus in Nepal. Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Yadav, S. et al. (2015). "Food habits of golden jackal Canis aureus and striped hyena Hyaena hyaena in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal." Global Journal of Science Frontier Research: D Agriculture and Veterinary 15(4).