Arctic-fox-2Scientific Name– Vulpes lagopus

Note on the scientific name: A recent change occurred that changed their scientific name from “alopex lagopus” to “vulpes lagopus.” This change was supported by DNA evidence.

Conservation Status– Least Concern

Appearance

The appearance of the arctic fox varies with the seasons. During the winter they have a thick white coat which is all white. In summer this coat changes with most of the body becoming brown. Patches of white are still present across the body. This adaptation serves two purposes. One is to help them deal with the heat and the other is to help them blend in with their environment. On the paws of this species is fur so they can stand walking on the cold ice.

They have a small, compact body that helps them to not lost as much heat to the world around them. Their short legs, ears and muzzle also assist with this.

An average male reaches 55cm (22in) while a female will measure 52cm (20in) from the head to the base of the tail. The tail adds 30cm (12in) to the length of both species. At the shoulder an arctic fox stands 25-30cm (9.8-11.8in) tall. Males weigh 3.5kg (7.7lb) and females weigh 2.9kg (6.4lb).

Lifespan                                                                                  

Arctic foxes live for up to 10 years.arctic fox

Diet

This species is an omnivore. They will feed upon lemmings, arctic hare, birds, eggs, seeds, berries, carrion, ringed seal pups, fish, voles and seabirds. Occasionally when hunting for prey they will follow around a polar bear and eat the leftovers from his meal.

Habitat

Arctic foxes have a varied distribution across North America, Europe and Asia. They can be found in Russia, Greenland, Fennoscandia, Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Alaska, Canada and Iceland where it is the only native land mammal.

A vast majority of the arctic fox population make their home in tundra and pack ice habitats. In Canada and Alaska some live in Boreal Forests.

Reproductionarctic fox

Breeding takes place in the moths of April and May. During this time a monogamous pair forms that will mate and form a territory around their den.

52 dates after the mating takes place the largest litter in the order carnivora is born. This may contain anywhere up to 25 kits but 5-8 is most common. Both the mother and the father will assist in raising the kits.

At three to four weeks old they start to come out of the den for the first time. At 1-2 months old they begin to lose their dependence on milk. At nine weeks of age they leave the den and go off on their own.

Arctic foxes are sexually mature when they turn 10 months old.

Behaviour

Predators of the arctic fox include polar bears, wolf packs and humans. Cubs can be taken away by birds of prey which includes snowy owls.

Arctic foxes have a thick coat which is used to insulate them in -40oC temperatures. They will also use their brush like tail much like a coat by sitting across their body.

arctic foxThe home of arctic foxes is their den. This can cover an area of up to 1,000m2. These dens have many entrances and are regularly found to have housed many generations of foxes. These dens are built on slightly higher areas that are not affected by frost.

Quick facts

Arctic foxes are losing their place in some areas as they cannot camouflage as there is less snow. Most of the areas they lose are taken over by red foxes.

Arctic foxes were at one point hunted for their pelts which is said to be the warmest of any species.

Other names for the arctic fox include the snow fox, polar fox or white fox.

Photo Credits:

Top        – Public Domain

Top #2  – Public Domain

Map       – By Masae [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – By Mr. Per Harald Olsen – User Perhols on no.wikipedia (no.wikipedia) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons