Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda)
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.
Family: Canidae — foxes, wolves, dogs
Genus: Vulpes (Zimmermann, 1780)
Species: Vulpes zerda — fennec fox
0.80-1.9 kg (1.8-4.1 lb)
333-395 mm (13.1-15.6 in)
125-250 mm (4.9-9.8 in)
86-97 mm (3.4-3.8 in)
Small canid with large triangular ears, dark eyes, slender legs, and a long bushy tail.
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
Sandy deserts and other arid regions of northern Africa
Least Concern (2015 assessment)
Legally protected in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt
Populations in the Wild
Unknown; no systematic studies
Threats to Survival
No major range-wide threats.
Primarily nocturnal. Use dens during the day, when desert temperatures are hottest.
Live in a small group; basic social unit is mated pair and their offspring.
Wide variety of calls, including bark, yap, squeak, and cat-like purr. Communicate visually through greeting displays and tail posture.
Omnivorous: insects (beetles, locusts, termites), small rodents and birds, eggs, scorpions, spiders, lizards, geckos, skinks, plants (fruits, root vegetables).
Not well known. Possibly eagle-owls (Bufo spp.), domestic dogs, jackals, striped hyenas.
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
Long-term pair bond
Females ovulate once per year; receptive only 1 to 2 days per estrus cycle.
Female defends young and den until about 6 weeks after birth. Male helps guard and care for young.
9 to 12 months
About 50 to 53 days; may be longer in zoos. Not well known for wild populations.
1 to 4 young
1 litter per year
About 28 g (0.99 oz)
Age at Weaning
61 to 70 days old
Typical Life Expectancy
Wild populations: not reported
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.