Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo




Vulpes zerda


The fennec fox is the smallest fox in the world, weighing 2 to 3 pounds and the length is its body ranging from 9 to 16 inches. They have thick fur which keeps them warm during frigid cold nights in the desert as well as protects them from the heat of the day. Their fur is a light beige color with a white underbelly, which helps the fox blend into its environment. One noticeable characteristic of the fennec fox is its oversized ears, which are around 6 inches long. Their ears helps to regulate their body temperature and keep them cool. They are nocturnal, spending daylight within their dens and becoming more active at night when temperatures are cooler.


Fennec foxes are common throughout the Sahara Desert and can also be found in the deserts of Northern Africa and Northern Sinai.


Fennec foxes burrow dens at the bottom of stable sand dunes, where moisture is more likely to be. The dens are interconnected for a small community of individuals to inhabit and can be 3 feet deep and 32 feet long. The fennec fox favors sand dunes that have vegetation nearby. Vegetation that lines their dens can provide sustenance and hydration when needed.


The fennec fox is an omnivore. In the wild, they consume mostly plants, leaves, fruits and roots. They will also eat eggs, insects, rodents and small reptiles when available. They have a keen sense of hearing and smell, which helps them locate potential prey. Fennec foxes can live for an indefinite amount of time without drinking water. Most of the hydration they need comes from the plants, fruits, and animals they consume.


In a zoo setting, the fennec fox consumes chow, fruit, vegetables, insect forage, and meat.


The fennec fox is monogamous; and once they have found a partner they mate for life. The mating season for the fennec fox is from January to February and females give birth only once a year. After a gestation period of about 50 days, they give birth to liter of two to four cubs between March and April. Kits are weaned from their mother after 60 to 70 days and reach sexual maturity around 10 months.


Fennec foxes live up to 10 years in the wild and 12-13 years in human care.


Fennec foxes are social animals and live in small communities of 10 individuals. Males are much more dominate in behavior, marking their territory with urine and fecal matter as well as aggressively competing with one another during the mating season.


The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists the fennec fox as least concern, meaning there are no immediate threats causing significant damage to their population of habitat.


Fennec foxes have thick fur on the on the soles of their feet that protects them against the scorching hot sands of the desert! This fur also gives them greater traction while walking on loose sand.


National Geographic: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/fennec-fox/

IUCN Red List: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41588/0

EOL: http://eol.org/pages/328001/details