The Fennec fox is the world's smallest fox. It has thick fur to help keep it warm during freezing cold desert nights and to protect it from heat during the day. The fur is light beige with a white underbelly. The Fennec fox has large ears which help regulate their body temperature.
Fennec foxes are found in the Sahara Desert and other semi-arid parts of North Africa. They inhabit areas from Morocco to Egypt, south to Sudan and north Niger, east to Kuwait and the Sinai Peninsula.
Habits and lifestyle
Fennec foxes make dens beneath stable sand dunes. They dig a burrow to sleep in during the heat of the day. They prefer dunes with vegetation nearby. It is nocturnal, spending the day in its den, coming out in the cool of the night. In contrast to most foxes, which are solitary, this fox forms groups of about 10 members. Males are territorial, marking their boundaries with urine. They will become aggressive towards each other during the mating season.
leash, skulk, earth, lead, troop
Diet and nutrition
This animal is an omnivore, eating mostly leaves, roots and fruits. They can also eat rodents, eggs, insects, and small reptiles. Fennec foxes can go for an indefinite period of time without water, as most of the water they need is provided by the plants and animals they eat. In zoos, the Fennec fox eats chow, fruit, vegetables, meat and insect forage.
The Fennec fox is monogamous and mates for life. The breeding season runs from January to February, females giving birth just once a year. The gestation period is about 50 days, and a litter of 2 to 4 kits is produced between March and April. Kits are weaned after 60 to 70 days. They start to hunt alongside their mother when they are old enough to do so. Sexual maturity is reached around 10 months.
kit, cub, pup
Currently there are no major global-wide threats to fennecs. Road construction and new human settlements increase the disturbance and risk to some populations. These foxes do not threaten any human interest, such as livestock, although inhabitants of the Sahara and Sinai hunt them for their fur or exhibition and sale to tourists.
Current population numbers are not known, but assumed to be adequate, as traders in Northern Africa often trap Fennec foxes for exhibition or the tourist trade. The ICUN classifies the Fennec fox as "Least Concern" with stable population trend.
Fennecs are predators, controlling numbers of birds, small mammals, reptiles, insects, and other invertebrates within their territories.
Fun facts for kids
- Fennecs can purr like a cat when content.
- A Fennec fox is the smallest of the wild canids.
- A male is called a "reynard", while the female is a "vixen" and the babies "kits". A group is called a "leash" or a "skulk".
- Vixens may feature "love handles," or alopecia during the breeding season.
- Fennecs need to keep warm and will shiver when the temperature drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fennec foxes are nocturnal, but enjoy lying in the sun.
- They can climb out enclosures, and dig to a depth of twenty feet.
- When startled they can produce a musky smell from a scent gland on the tip of their tail.