Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance logo
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library logo

Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda) Fact Sheet: Summary

Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda) Fact Sheet

Fennec fox at the San Diego Zoo

Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

 

Taxonomy

Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae — foxes, wolves, dogs

Genus: Vulpes (Zimmermann, 1780)

Species: Vulpes zerda — fennec fox

Body Weight

0.80-1.9 kg (1.8-4.1 lb)

Head-body Length

333-395 mm (13.1-15.6 in)

Tail Length

125-250 mm (4.9-9.8 in)

Ear Length

86-97 mm (3.4-3.8 in)

General Appearance

Small canid with large triangular ears, dark eyes, slender legs, and a long bushy tail.

Pelage

Soft, fine, thick fur. Upper body sandy or cream-colored. Legs, underbelly, and flanks almost white. Tail rufous-colored with dark tip.

Distribution & Status

Behavior & Ecology

Range

Northern Africa

Habitat

Sandy deserts and other arid regions of northern Africa

IUCN Status

Least Concern (2015 assessment)

CITES Appendix

Appendix II

Other Designations

Legally protected in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt

Populations in the Wild

Unknown; no systematic studies

Threats to Survival

No major range-wide threats.
Impacted by commercial hunting and trade, death from motor vehicle collisions, and habitat loss due to expanding human settlement and climate change.
Populations stable in sandy areas away from human settlement.

Activity Cycle

Primarily nocturnal. Use dens during the day, when desert temperatures are hottest.

Social Behavior

Live in a small group; basic social unit is mated pair and their offspring.

Communication

Wide variety of calls, including bark, yap, squeak, and cat-like purr. Communicate visually through greeting displays and tail posture.

Diet

Omnivorous: insects (beetles, locusts, termites), small rodents and birds, eggs, scorpions, spiders, lizards, geckos, skinks, plants (fruits, root vegetables).

Predators

Not well known. Possibly eagle-owls (Bufo spp.), domestic dogs, jackals, striped hyenas.

Locomotion

Quick and agile. Superb diggers. Capable jumpers and climbers.

Relationship with Humans

In some African locations, captured for sale to tourists, photo exhibition, and for meat or fur. Bred privately in the United States.

Reproduction & Development

Species Highlights

Mating System

Long-term pair bond

Breeding

Females ovulate once per year; receptive only 1 to 2 days per estrus cycle.

Parental Care

Female defends young and den until about 6 weeks after birth. Male helps guard and care for young.

Sexual Maturity

9 to 12 months

Gestation

About 50 to 53 days; may be longer in zoos. Not well known for wild populations.

Litter Size

1 to 4 young

Interbirth Interval

1 litter per year

Birth Weight

About 28 g (0.99 oz)

Age at Weaning

61 to 70 days old

Longevity

In the wild: not known
In managed care: 12 to 14 years; up to 16 years

Feature Facts

  • “Fennec” is a Latinized form of an Arabic word for “fox”
  • Generally considered smallest canid, though Vulpes cana is similar in size
  • Very large ears for its body size; used for prey detection, including under sand, and likely aids heat loss
  • Fur on bottom of feet enables walking on hot, loose sand
  • Wooly underfur provides protection against extreme temperatures
  • Fennec foxes capable of living in remote desert areas and independently of water sources for long periods
  • Dig large maze-like dens in compact soils
  • Fast and agile—outrun and out-maneuver predators
  • Play behavior common, even in adulthood
  • Much still unknown about this fox's basic ecology and behavior in the wild
  • Fennec foxes are part of San Diego Zoo outreach programs

About This Fact Sheet

For detailed information, click the tabs at the top of this page.

 

© 2021 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

 

How to cite: Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda) Fact Sheet. c2021. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/fennec-fox.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2019 Dec 31)

 

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to library@sdzwa.org.

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Heather R. Down, animal care curator at The Living Desert, for providing useful comments on this fact sheet.


Thank you to Kym Janke for sharing her knowledge of animal husbandry for the Managed Care section of this fact sheet.

Kym Janke is the Lead Keeper of the San Diego Zoo’s Children’s Zoo (an Animal Connections department). She is responsible for overseeing animal care, as well as education-outreach programs. She has worked for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance for 13 years and has extensive experience in zoo animal husbandry across a wide variety of taxa.

Early in her career, Kym developed expertise in the husbandry and breeding of cheetahs at Wildlife Safari in Oregon. She also previously worked at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Canada.

Since 2008, Kym has served on the board of the American Association of Zoo Keepers San Diego. She is also involved in AZA’s Animal Ambassador Scientific Advisory Group (AASAG).


Thank you to Havilah Steinman for assistance with San Diego Zoo history and archival research for this fact sheet.

"Covered" in Charisma

Fennec Fox, cover of 1962 San Diego Zoo guide book

Fennec fox on the cover of the San Diego Zoo's 1962 official guide book.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance at archive.org. All rights reserved.

SDZWA Library Links