The fennec fox is the smallest of all the wild canids. They show the typical features associated with a desert species. The coat is a pale cream overall, often with darker coloration, ranging from fawn to gray on the sides of the body, and a more solid line running along the spine. The head and body length is from 9 to 16 inches, and weight from 1 to 3 pounds. The large ears of the fennec fox, which help it to hear effectively and assist with thermal regulation, can measure up to 6 inches in length. The teeth are relatively small, with the canines in particular being reduced in size. They will drink at water holes in the desert, but also appear well adapted to survive with a minimum intake of fluid. Their kidneys restrict water loss from the body, limiting urine production. Their thick undercoat provides insulation during the cold desert nights, while the pale coat helps reflect the heat, as well as serving as camouflage. The soles of their feet are covered in hair, so the pads are invisible. This insulates against the hot desert sand, and also aids in running over loose sand without losing grip.
Fennec foxes occupy a permanent den, which they dig themselves. They appear to be relatively social, living in family groups, although the core structure is the breeding pair. They are able to jump distances of 4 feet or more. They bark like a small dog, but also make a purring sound like a domestic cat. The female fennec can produce two litters in a year. If the first litter is lost, she is likely to give birth again between 2-1/2 and 3 months later. Females become quite aggressive when they have a litter, vigorously defending their den. The male fox does not cross the threshold, but provides food for the group.
Fennec foxes have long been hunted in various parts of their range, although they pose no threat to humans or livestock. In some areas it appears that they may have declined in numbers as a consequence of this hunting. They are listed in Appendix 2 of CITES.
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