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  • Feeling Foxy

    August 18, 2022 3 min read

    Feeling Foxy

    Resourcefulness was never so cute!

    By Peggy Scott*

    Some may like it hot, and some may like it cold, but when it comes to foxes, nearly anywhere can feel “just right.” These compact little omnivores can be found around the world, inhabiting parts of every continent except Antarctica. While they share some common characteristics with other canids, foxes possess traits and adaptations all their own.

    More compact than their canine cousins such as wolves and dogs, foxes max out at around 20 pounds, and live in small family groups or even alone. Foxes all sport pointy, upright ears, a pointed little snout, and a long, bushy tail. Male foxes are called reynards, tods, or dogs, and females are called vixens. And their offspring? Baby foxes are kits. Collectively, a group is referred to as a “skulk,” a “leash,” or an “earth” of foxes.

    Far from finicky, most foxes can make a meal out of invertebrates like insects, small vertebrates like reptiles and birds, or even eggs and plants. Some species, however, are a little more selective, like the crab-eating fox, which dines almost exclusively on, well, you guessed it. Appetite-wise, foxes are smart: while they eat a little over two pounds of food a day, they will also save some, burying their “doggie bag” leftovers under soil, leaves, or snow to enjoy later. Three fox species can be found in the Zoo and Safari Park collection, and each has its own unique appeal. At the San Diego Zoo's Wildlife Explorers Base Camp, within the Desert Dunes Habitat, you will see the amazing, adorable Fennec Fox!

    They're All Ears

    Native to the dry, sandy regions of North Africa, the fennec fox Vulpes zerda is the smallest fox species, measuring about 15 inches long (plus an 8-inch tail) and weighing about 3 pounds. Large, dark eyes sit atop the fox’s tiny, pointed face, which is framed by those characteristic jumbo-size ears. The largest in relation to body size of all canids, a fennec fox’s ears can be half the length of its body! Those awesome ears do double duty: they allow the animal to hear prey moving around underground, as well as help dissipate heat under the hot desert sun. Thick, cream-colored fur both protects the fennec fox from the blazing sun and insulates it against the cold at night. Its color helps the fox blend in with its sandy surroundings. Fur also grows around the fox’s paw pads, offering heat protection and traction.

    Mostly carnivorous and favoring insects, snails, rodents, birds, and bird eggs, fennec foxes won’t pass up the opportunity to nosh on the occasional fruits and berries. Socially, fennec foxes are monogamous, and a pair lives with their offspring in a family of up to 10 members. The underground burrows can be quite elaborate and expansive—over 30 feet in length. Creating such a haven sounds like a big job, but these industrious little animals can dig with great speed—and the resulting burrows interconnect, forming a comfy underground community. Fennec foxes line their dwellings with soft materials such as bits of fur and feathers, to make them comfortable when they sleep during the day.

    Are you also in love with the adorable big-eared Fennec Fox? Help support conservation science with your purchase of fennec fox shirts, accessories, and toys. Take home your own huggable foxy friend from our fennec fox plush collection. Shop for all your fennec fox gifts here.


    Fennec Fox Merchandise


    *As seen on San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Stories.

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