Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda)
This little creature used to be my group’s mascot for a project in school, and is now among one of my favorite animals.
Fun fact: The fennec fox is the world’s smallest fox species.
Body and Skeletal Structure:
Fennec foxes are typically 9 to 16 in (29-41 cm) inches from head-body length, while their tail length (consisting of 60% of their body length) usually ranges around 7 to 12 in (~18-30 cm). Their height from their shoulders down is about 7.1 to 8.7 in (18-22 cm). Their ears, perhaps their most distinctive feature, ranges from 4 to 6 in (10.1-15.2 cm) length-wise. As for this fox’s weight, it’s typically around 2.2 to 3.5 lbs (~1-1.6 kg). Like many animals, the males are usually larger and heavier than their female counterparts.
Fun Fact: Fennec foxes are smaller than an average house cat.
This fox has a thick, white and sandy-colored fur coat that keeps it warm at night and reflects the sunlight during the day. It also camouflages the fox from prey, while hunting, and other predators that may be dwelling about. The fox’s face is typically lighter in color, with a dark streak that extends from the inner eye down and outward to either side of the muzzle. Their bushy tail is a little more reddish, with a black tip and a black patch near the base of it. The slender legs of the fennec fox in North Africa are slightly reddish, whereas foxes from further south have almost white legs. The fennec fox also has fur on its feet that protects its footpads from the scorching ground below.
Fennec foxes are opportunistic eaters and omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals for sustenance. Small rodents, birds, eggs, lizards and insects are the most common part of their diet. Fruits, roots and leaves are the most important part of this fox’s diet since they provide almost 100% of the animal’s hydration. Fennec foxes are capable of going indefinitely without free water, and are known to cache extra food.
This adorable little creature typically lives to be about 10-14 years of age.
Mating Season: January-February
Gestation Period: About 50-53 days
Litter Size: 2-5 kits (Average Size: 3 kits)
Communication and Behavior:
are highly social animals, living together in family groups which may contain up to 10 individuals. These kin-based “clans” usually include at least one breeding pair (since fennecs are monogamous and mate for life), a litter of immature pups, and perhaps a few of the pups’ older siblings (who help the parents rear their younger ones). These foxes often engage in play (through which social rank is sometimes communicated) and prove to be remarkably agile for their small stature. The sociable nature of fennec foxes is even evident in their frequent and varied vocalizations. Both adults and pups chatter, whimper, wail, growl and shriek. Howls are brief and loud, descending in pitch and repeated many times over. They use visual and tactile communication as well. Fennecs are also vigorous defenders of both territory and pups. Each clan of foxes have their own territories, which is marked by both urine and scat. Dominant males urinate more at marking sites than their submissive fellows. Despite the gregariousness of these foxes, they are usually solitary nocturnal hunters, preferring to burrow into their dens (that they dug out) with their kin during the day to escape the extensive heat. These dens often become extensive tunnel systems and may have several entrances from which they can flee if enemies arrive.
Habitat and Range:
These foxes inhabit arid, sandy deserts and semi-deserts, preferring stable sand dunes in which they can burrow into. However, they do make sure they are near the presence of desert grasses and/or light scrub vegetation, as fennecs use these plants to bolster, shelter, and line their dens.
Fennec foxes are of least concern at the moment, though that may change. Their adorable appearance makes them favorites of the illegal wildlife trade, and poachers also hunt the fennec fox for its fur. These foxes are sometimes raised in “farms” for their meat and even killed by domestic dogs. These threats have resulted in a decline in numbers in certain populations in north-western Africa, and new human settlements, like those in southern Morocco, have resulted in the disappearance of fennec foxes from those areas.