Arctic Fox

Small but sturdy, these minute members of the wild Canadian canidae family can withstand some of Earth's coldest temperatures

Antarctic Peninsula

Name: Arctic Fox (a.k.a White Fox, Snow Fox, Polar Fox) (Vulpes lagopus)

Length: 75 to 100 cm (including tail)

Weight: 3 to 8 kg

Location: The Arctic

Conservation status: Least Concern

Diet: Small animals, carrion, fish, birds, berries, seaweed, insects, small invertebrates

Appearance: White in winter, brown (brown/white spotted) in summer. About 10% of the population stays dark during winter and is termed “Blue fox”. His type was particularly valuable to the trappers during the trapper period.

How do Arctic Foxes Hunt?

Foxes will eat just about anything they can get their paws on. During summers lemmings will often be the main part of their diet, but they’ll also go after birds, eggs, and even seal pups. The fact that their coats change colour the year round means they are always camouflaged and able to sneak up on prey. With its wide (but short) ears an Arctic Fox can hear its prey moving under snow. Once it has located its next meal, the fox will pounce straight up then down right on top of their victim. In the fall they’ll work hard to store up body fat, increasing their weight by up to 50%. During winter, when food becomes much more scarce, the foxes will often follow polar bears around and then scavenge what they can off of a kill once the bear is done.

Do they socialize?

Arctic Foxes are generally independent until they mate, which means their territory has fewer mouths to feed come winter.

How fast can Arctic Foxes move?

Arctic Foxes are quite fleet when they want to be, sprinting up to nearly 50 km per hour.

What are Arctic Fox mating rituals like?

Breeding season occurs during April and May, when foxes will mate in monogamous pairs. The couple will either dig out a new den, or move into a pre-existing one. These dens can often contain a long network of tunnels covering as much as 1000 m2. The pregnancy lasts about 52 days when a litter of 5-10 offspring, called “kits,” are born. Both the mother and the father are present to help raise the young. The kits first emerge from the den about a month after being born, and are weaned off their mother’s milk after a further 4 or 5 weeks.

How long do Arctic Foxes live?

Arctic Foxes generally live from 3 to 6 years.

How many Arctic Foxes are there today?

There isn’t a solid number regarding Arctic Foxes, though they’re estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Their population fluctuates depending on the availability of food sources, especially the lemming population. However the populations of Finland, Norway, and Sweden is estimated to be only about 120 adults.

Do they have any predators?

Grey Wolves were traditionally the biggest predator Arctic Foxes had to face. But because of global warming the territories of Artic Foxes and Red Foxes are overlapping, causing a new and increasing threat to Artic Foxes. Artic Foxes were a mainstay of fur trappers thanks to their luxuriously warm and beautiful coats.

7 Fascinating Facts about Arctic Foxes

  • Arctic Foxes have one of the warmest mammal fur in the world. 
  • They have short stubby legs in order to keep them low to the ground and out of the cold Arctic winds.
  • They have small noses, eyes, and ears as an additional caution against the cold.
  • They have fur on the bottom of their feet which keeps them from slipping on the ice.
  • Arctic Foxes are so well-adapted to handle the cold that they can endure temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius before their metabolism kicks in to try to heat the body from within.
  • Artic Foxes are the smallest member of the canid family found in the wild in Canada.
  • Arctic Fox burrows can have dozens of entrances and have sometimes housed generations of foxes.   

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