The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), also called the polar fox, white fox, or snow fox, is a small fox endemic to the Arctic regions of the Nothern Hemisphere.
It also found throughout the Arctic tundra biome. The Arctic fox is well-adapted to living in cold environments and is known to be stealthy as its thick, warm fur enables it to camouflage.
The Arctic fox is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Table of Contents
- Bering Islands Arctic fox (V. l. beringensis)
- Greenland Arctic fox (V. l. foragoapusis)
- Iceland Arctic fox (V. l. fuliginosus)
- Pribilof Islands Arctic fox (V. l. pribilofensis)
The average length (head-and-body) of the male is 22 in (55 cm), with a range of 18 – 27 in (46 – 68 cm), while the female averages 20 in (52 cm) with a range of 16 – 22 in (41 – 55 cm).
In some regions, there is little or no difference in size between both sexes. The tail is about 12 in (30 cm) long in both the male and female. The height at the shoulder is 9.8 – 11.8 in (25 – 30 cm).
On average males weigh 7.7 lb (3.5 kg), with a range of 7.1 – 20.7 lb (3.2 – 9.4 kg), while females average 6.4 lb (2.9 kg), with a range of 3.1 – 7.1 lb (1.4 – 7.1 lb).
Arctic foxes endure a temperature difference of about 160 to 180 °F (90 to 100 °C) between their internal core temperature and the external environment.
The Arctic fox prevents heat loss by curling up tightly, tucking its head and legs under its body and behind its furry tail.
They also stay warm by getting out of the wind and staying in their dens. Arctic foxes do not hibernate as they are active throughout the year.
In the spring, Arctic foxes begin to prepare for the mating season. They build a home for their potential offspring. They are known to live in large dens, which are frost-free and are in the slightly raised ground.
These are complex systems of tunnels covering as much as 1,200 sq yd (1,000 m2). Arctic foxes prefer dens with easily accessible entrances that are clear from ice and snow, making it easier to burrow in.
Arctic foxes choose and build dens that face southward, facing the sun, which makes the den warm for them.
They build a different den for pregnant females, and these dens are usually large and maze-like for a quick and easy escape from predators. These Natal dens are usually found in rugged terrain (to provide more protection for the pups).
In the tundra region, the main prey of the Arctic fox is lemmings, which is why it is often called the “lemmings fox”.
Arctic foxes mate and produce 18 pups when lemmings are available in abundance and do not mate when food becomes scarce.
So the population density of Arctic foxes depends on the availability of food sources. The abundant the food source, the more the population density and vice versa.
Mating takes place between April – May, and the gestation period lasts for 52 days. Arctic foxes are known to produce one of the largest litters in the order Carnivora. They produce litters that contain as many as 25 young.
The offspring begin to leave the den by the age of 3 – 4 weeks old and are weaned at the age of 9 weeks. Arctic foxes are mainly monogamous, with both parents caring for the offspring.
When prey and predators are abundant, Arctic foxes tend to be promiscuous (exhibited in both sexes). They are known to live for 3 to 6 years in the wild.
Arctic foxes primarily eat any small animal available, including voles, lemmings, hares, fish, eggs, birds, and carrion. Arctic foxes also scavenge on carcasses left behind by larger predators such as polar bears and wolves.
Lemmings are the most common prey for Arctic foxes, as a family of foxes eats several dozens of lemmings daily. They also feed on seaweed and berries, and with this, they may be classified as omnivores.
Arctic foxes survive food scarcity and harsh winter by either storing body fat or hoarding food.
Fat is deposited viscerally and subcutaneously in Arctic foxes. At the beginning of winter, the Arctic fox begins to amass fat as a form of energy storage, which in the end provides it with an estimated 14740 kJ of energy.
By using the lowest MBR value ever recorded in Arctic foxes, an average-sized fox weighing 7.7 lb (3.5 kg) would need at least 471 kJ/day during the winter to survive.
Arctic foxes steal goose eggs (mostly greater snow geese) at a rate of 2.7 to 7.3 eggs/h, and they store 80 to 97% of them.
Arctic foxes have a circumpolar distribution and occur in Arctic tundra habitats in northern Asia, northern Europe, and North America.
Its range includes Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard, Fennoscandia, northern Russia, Alaska, islands in the Barents Sea, islands in the Bering Sea, and Canada. Arctic foxes were once hunted to extinction in Jan Mayen.
The Arctic fox mostly inhabits packs ice and tundra but is also present in the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and Canadian boreal forests (northern Saskatchewan, northeastern Alberta, Northern Ontario, northern Manitoba, Northern Quebec, and Newfoundland & Labrador).
They are found at altitudes up to 9,800 ft (3,000 m) above sea level and have been spotted on sea ice close to the North Pole.
The Arctic fox is the only known land mammal endemic to Iceland. The colour of its coat depends on the region or location it is found.
The white-coloured fox mainly lives inland and blends with the snowy tundra, while the blue-coloured fox lives on the coasts because of its dark colour which blends with the rocks and cliffs.
- Arctic fox – wikipedia
- Arctic Fox – nationalgeographic