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Scientific Name: Vulpes zerda
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Fast Facts: Fennec Fox

Scientific Name: Vulpes zerda
Common Names: Fennec fox, fennec
Basic Animal Group: Mammal
Size: 9.5-16 inch body plus a 7-12 inch tail
Weight: 1.5-3.5 pounds
Lifespan: 10-14 years
Diet: Omnivore
Habitat: North Africa and the Sahara Desert
Population: Stable
Conservation Status: Least Concern


The fennec fox's most distinctive feature is its large ears, which may measure 6 inches. The ears help the fox identify prey at night and dissipate heat during the day. The fox is small, with a body ranging from 9 to 16 inches in length, plus a bushy 7 to 12 inch tail. Adults weigh between 1.5 and 3.5 pounds.

The fennec's thick coat is cream-colored with a black-tipped tail. The fluffy coat insulates the fox against temperatures that range from below freezing at night to over 100 F during the day. Fur covers their paws, protecting them from getting burned by hot sand and improving traction on shifting dunes. Fennec foxes lack musk glands found in other fox species, but have glands on their tail tips that produce a musky odor when the fox is startled.

Habitat and Distribution

Fennec foxes live in North Africa and Asia. They range from Morocco to Egypt, south to northern Niger, and east to Israel and Kuwait. The foxes are most at home in sand dunes, but they will live where soil is compacted, too.


Foxes are omnivores. Fennec foxes are nocturnal hunters that use their sensitive ears to detect the movement of small underground prey. They eat rodents, insects, birds and their eggs, and also fruit and other plants. Fennecs will drink free water, but don't require it. They get their water from food, plus digging in the ground causes dew formation that the animals can lick.


Fennec foxes communicate using a wide variety of sounds, including a purr resembling that of a cat. Males mark territory with urine.

Other fox species are mostly solitary, but fennec foxes are highly social. The basic social unit is a mated pair and their offspring for the present and previous year. The group lives in elaborate dens dug into sand or compacted soil.

Fennec fox kits

 Fennec fox kits are born with closed eyes and folded ears. Floridapfe / Getty Images
Reproduction and Offspring
Fennec foxes mate once a year in January and February and give birth in March and April. Gestation typically lasts between 50 and 52 days. The female or vixen gives birth in the den to a litter of one to four kits. A birth, the kit's eyes are closed and its ears are folded over. Kits are weaned by 61 to 70 days of age. The male feeds the female while she is caring for the young. Fennec foxes reach sexual maturity around nine months of age and mate for life. They have an average life expectancy of 14 years in captivity and are believed to live about 10 years in the wild.

Conservation Status

The IUCN classifies fennec fox conservation status as "least concern." The foxes are still abundant within most of their range, so the population may be stable. The species is listed under CITES Appendix II to help protect the foxes from international trade abuse.

Fennec Foxes and Humans

The fennec fox is the national animal of Algeria. In some places, it's legal to keep fennec foxes as pets. While not truly domesticated, they can be tamed. Like other foxes, they can dig under or climb over most enclosures. Most canine vaccinations are safe for fennecs. Although nocturnal by nature, fennec foxes (like cats) adapt to human schedules.

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