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Fennec Fox

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The Fennec fox, Fennecus zerda, is a small fox that lives in sandy deserts. It is found in the Sahara (in northern Africa) and the northern part of Saudi Arabia. This agile fox has huge ears and very large eyes; the large ears help the fox lose excess heat and enable it to hear its prey from a long distance away. Escaping the daytime desert heat, this mammal is nocturnal (most active at night); it rests during the day in a burrow in the sand. This social animal lives in groups of up to 10 individuals, and it marks its territory with urine. The life span is 10 to 12 years.

A male fox is called a reynard, the female is called a vixen, and the baby is called a kit. A group of foxes is called a skulk or a leash.

Anatomy: The Fennec fox is the smallest fox; it is from 14 to 17 inches (36-44 cm) long with a tail 8 inches (20 cm) long, and it weighs 2 to 3.5 pounds (1-1.5 kg). The long, bushy tail, sometimes called a sweep, helps the fox change direction quickly and keeps the fox's feet and nose warm when it curls up to sleep. Foxes have sharp, curved claws, and sharp teeth. The thick, insulating fur of the Fennec fox is the color of sand; the belly is white. The outer edges of the ears are reddish brown. To shield their feet from the heat of the burning desert sand, their feet have protective hair on the soles (the bottoms of the feet). The muzzle is narrow and pointed.

Diet and Water: The Fennec fox is an omnivore (eating both meat and plants); it eats small animals, plant material, fruit and berries. At night, the Fennec fox eats insects, lizards, snails, small rodents, birds, and eggs. Like other foxes, the Fennec fox stores extra food in its underground den. The Fennec fox gets most of the water it needs from its food. It can go without water for a very long time.

Reproduction: Female Fennec foxes give birth once a year, in the late winter or early spring; a litter has 1 to 5 tiny, gray-skinned kits. The gestation period is about 50 days.

Classification: Class Mammalia (mammals), Order Carnivora, Family Canidae (foxes, wolves, dogs, hyenas), Genus and species Fennecus zerda.

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