Photo of the Month: Fennec Fox

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Fennec Fox; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Status: This species (Vulpes zerda ) is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its wide range; however, while there are no major threats to wild populations, habitat loss still occurs in some areas and it is often collected for the pet trade.

Habitat: This nocturnal fox can be found in the arid, sandy areas of northern Africa and the central Sahara, usually around stable sand dunes suitable for burrows. In order to avoid the extreme heat of the day, the fennec fox spends most of the daylight hours in a cool, underground den that can be up to three feet deep. Although considered to be solitary, this fox sometimes forms small communities with dens in close proximity to one another.

Diet: As an omnivore, this fox’s diet ranges from prey such as insects, eggs, rodents, and lizards to vegetation, roots, and fruit. Like most desert dwellers, the fennec fox can survive for long periods without water and gets most of the moisture it needs from its food.

The fennec fox is the smallest of the fox species, weighing two to three and a half pounds, but its enormous ears can reach six inches in length and make up 20 percent of its body surface. These ears help the fox listen for underground prey as well as dissipate excess heat. Other desert adaptations include the fox’s thick, sandy-colored coat that keeps it warm at night, reflects the sunlight during the day, and provides excellent desert camouflage. The soles of the fennec fox’s feet are covered with fur to protect its footpads from the scorching ground.

This species returns to the L.A. Zoo after several years with the arrival of Radar, a young male fox, who will join the Ambassador Animal team. He can be seen at his nursery window exhibit at the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo.