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The fennec fox (Vulpes zerda, formerly Fennecus zerda) is a desert dwelling fox with a habitat ranging from the most western of Saharan Africa to the North Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Southern Israel.
Fennec comes from the Arabic word "fanak" meaning fox. Zerda comes from the Greek xeros meaning dry, describing the fennec's habitat.
These are the smallest in the vulpine family, measuring only 24 to 41 cm (Head to body) but their large ears, measuring up to 15 cm, are relative to other foxes worldwide. Their coats are light earthen shades, fawn to golden in color, much like the desert sands they dwell in. Their facial features are diminutive and sharp. Much like their facial features, their teeth are also tiny compared to their body size.
Their teeth are small because they do not hunt large prey. Fennec are opportunistic feeders and often forage for plants. Fennec also hunt prey such as insects, rodents, reptiles, and eggs. Dehydration is usually a problem in deserts, but most residents have found out ways to go on without water for long periods of time, fennec are not an exception.
Much like the Jack Rabbits of North American deserts, the large ears of the fennec radiate body heat to keep cool. The thick coat of the fennec looks like it'd be rather warm and indeed it is at night when the temperatures cool drastically, but the thick fur also protects them from the sun during the day. The pads of a fennec's feet are also covered in fur, acting as snowshoes for walking on loose sand, as well as keeping the pads from burning on the hot sand of the Saharan desert.
Fennec live in burrows and are avid diggers. As social animals, they live in small groups of about ten others. They mark their territories with urine, like other canines. Fennec compete aggressively for mates during their mating seasons, which occur around January and February. The gestation period lasts about 50-52 days with a litter of 2-5 kits. For the 4 weeks the kits will be in the den, the male stays out, as the female is very aggressive when suckling kits. The kits go out on their own after 3 months to up to a year.
They are trapped for furs. In the United States, they are bred and sold as pets (possibly in other countries as well).
In captivity, or as a pet, fennec are very playful and get along relatively well with humans. However, they are much like ferrets because of their curiosity. Digging has been a problem with private owners, it is often suggested that fennec have their own room since furniture often make great sandboxes for them.
Because of their cuteness factor and their ability to be kept as pets, fennec are a popular species in furry and are often confused with their more popular cousin the red fox, as well as kit foxes.
Fictional fennec characters
- Finnick (Zootopia)
- Sonar the Fennec (Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog)
- Shayzeri Zodd (Tales of the Fehnnik)
- Fennec Fox at National Geographic