Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox

White fox, Snow fox

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Vulpes lagopus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
3-14 yrs
TOP SPEED
45 km/h
WEIGHT
1.4-9.4 kg
HEIGHT
25-30 cm
LENGTH
52-55 cm

The Arctic fox is a small fox well adapted to living in cold environments of Arctic regions. It has a deep thick fur which is white in winter and brown in summer. The Arctic fox can stay warm in winter not just because of its thick coat but because of its generally rounded body shape with short legs, bushy tail, small rounded ears and short muzzle.

Distibution

The Arctic fox lives in Arctic and Subarctic regions of Russia, Europe and North America. It lives in the circumpolar Arctic, which stretches from the top of Ellesmere Island to the bottom of James Bay in Canada. It is mostly found on tundra and pack ice, but it also lives in boreal forests in the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and in Canada.

Arctic Fox habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Arctic foxes are diurnal animals. They live in a family consisting of one adult male, the young, and two vixens - one a non-breeding female born the year before that helps look after the next litter. The fox makes a den far beneath the surface of the ground. It can tolerate temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius. Their dens have a number of entrances and have been lived in by generations of foxes for centuries. To locate prey during winter, the fox uses its sense of smell and hearing to find animals moving through tunnels underneath the snow.

Diet and Nutrition

The Arctic fox is an omnivore and will eat almost any animal, dead or alive. It prefers small mammals but will eat berries, insects, carrion, and even animal or human stools. In winter it usually eats sea mammals and birds, invertebrates, fish, and seals.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
April-May
PREGNANCY DURATION
52 days
BABY CARRYING
6-19 cubs
INDEPENDENT AGE
14-15 weeks
FEMALE NAME
vixen
MALE NAME
reynard, tod
BABY NAME
kit, cub, pup

Arctic foxes tend to form monogamous pairs in the breeding season and maintain a territory around the den. Breeding is usually in April and May, with a gestation period of about 52 days. Between 6 and 19 cubs are born. They drink milk until they are able to eat solid food, starting to eat after 6 weeks. They leave the den when they are 14-15 weeks old. They are usually dependent on their parents from summer to autumn. Both male and female parents take care of the cubs, with the female raising the young while the male hunts for food. At one year old they are sexually mature.

Population

Population threats

Arctic foxes are threatened by the fur trade and diseases caught from domestic dogs. Climate change is another threat, as the snow-line shrinks further and further north, reducing the range of the arctic fox and giving way to the red fox, advancing northward.

Population number

According to IUCN Red List, the world population of Arctic foxes is in the order of several hundred thousand animals. Arctic fox is common in the tundra areas of Russia, Canada, coastal Alaska, Greenland and Iceland. Despite legal protection, the adult population in Norway, Sweden, and Finland is estimated to be fewer than 200 individuals, so it is acutely endangered. Overall, currently Arctic foxes are classified as Least Conern (LC) and their numbers today remain stable.

Ecological niche

The Arctic fox helps to keep the environment clean by keeping the rodent population down and by eating dead animals.

Domestication

The Arctic fox is now popular as a pet. This is the result of a Russian project run by Professor D. K. Belyaeve at a breeding farm at Novosibirsk. Foxes which were the most tame were interbred until some changes in color and features took place. Foxes were bred to have slightly different genes to the original species. The fox needs to be groomed carefully every day due to its heavy coat. Its character might be aloof, similar to some cats, or loyal and friendly like a dog.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Sometimes an Arctic fox will walk behind a polar bear to eat its food scraps.
  • When cold, the fox will wrap its thick bushy tail around itself to keep warm.
  • It has a unique heat exchange system that will stop it from shivering until the temperature goes below −70 °C (−94 °F).
  • Arctic foxes that live where the color of the snow is not pure white grow fur with the same grayish color.
  • When hunting, the fox must break through thick snow. To do this, the fox jumps up high and then dives headfirst into the snow.
  • They have an excellent sense of hearing and smell but pretty poor eyesight.
  • Arctic foxes have strongly pigmented eyes as protection from the glare of the sun. Sometimes each eye is a different color.

References

1. Arctic Fox Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_fox
2. Arctic Fox on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/899/0

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About