Arctic Fox: Vulpes Lagopus
Description Of The Arctic Fox
During the summer, the arctic fox is dark gray to brown to bluish-brown. Its fur is white or creamy white in the winter. It’s got a long bushy tail, a short nose, and little curled ears in the back.
This fox has short stubby legs covered in thick fur. Characteristics that aid survival in cold climates include its nose, thick fur, and small ears. The fox is less exposed to the cold because its legs are so short, and its ears and nose are tiny.
The arctic fox also has thick fur and hair on his paw pads that help keep it warm. The fur on its paws also gives the fox traction, so it doesn’t slide on the ice. It protects its nose from the cold when the arctic fox is asleep by curling its bushy tail around its body. 1Go To Source nhpbs.org -“Arctic Fox – Vulpes lagopus”
Learn More: Types Of Foxes In The United States
Arctic Fox Size
Measurements of the average adult arctic fox:
- Weight: 6.5-17 lbs
- Body Length: 18-26.7 in
- Tail Length 13 in
- Height: 9.8–12 in
Behavior Of Arctic Foxes
The foxes live a communal/nomadic life, often forming small food bands to scavenge the countryside. During the winter months, they do not hibernate. Arctic foxes will establish families/homes called dens on cliffs.
This group consists of one adult male, the litter, and two vixens—one of the vixens that remains to help care for the next litter, a nonbreeding animal born the previous year. In a low mound 1-4 meters high in the open tundra, or a pile of rocks at the base of a cliff, an arctic fox generally makes its den. These dens have 4-8 entrances and a tunnel system covering approximately 30 square meters. Generations of foxes have been using some of these dens for centuries. 2Go To Source animaldiversity.org -“Vulpes lagopus Arctic fox”
Arctic Fox Migration Patterns
Arctic foxes are nomadic, usually in a family group, and travel great distances across their range. The Arctic fox migrates seaward in Alaska in fall and early winter, and in late winter and early spring, it will reverse movement. Studies have documented long-distance migrations of several hundred kilometers. 3Go To Source adfg.alaska.gov -“Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus)”
Reproduction Habits Of Arctic Foxes
Arctic foxes will form monogamous pairs during their breeding season. Four to five weeks is the average gestation period. Births occur for the first litter from April through June and for the second litter in July or August.
The usual litter size is five to eight kits, although as many as 15 kits have been identified. Young kits are weaned for two to four weeks at a time when they come out of the den. In as few as 10 months, Arctic foxes reach sexual maturity. 4Go To Source biologicaldiversity.org -“NATURAL HISTORY ARCTIC FOX } Alopex lagopus”
Arctic Fox Habitat
Arctic foxes live in the tundra and on the pack ice of the Arctic. They also live on the edge of the Arctic in wooded areas. The Arctic ecosystems are incredibly harsh. The tundra of the Arctic is cold, frozen, and has no trees. The soil in this region is permafrost (permanently frozen). Lush grass and flowering plants grow during the summer, but only for short periods of time. 5Go To Source animals.net -“Arctic Fox”
Range Of The Arctic Fox Species
In all Arctic tundra habitats, this species has a circumpolar distribution. They can be found in Eurasia, Greenland, Iceland, North America, and many Arctic islands.
Arctic Foxes are prevalent over the northern sea ice where, as scavengers, they can travel several thousand kilometers following Polar Bears. They have been observed at the North Pole on the sea ice and may occur up to an elevation of 9,750 ft. 6Go To Source seaworld.org -“Arctic Fox”
Arctic Fox Diet
Lemmings are the main prey of arctic foxes, but they will hunt and catch other small animals and scavenge food on cliffs and leftovers from predators such as polar bears. They will take eggs from tundra nesting birds where possible, although if available, they are not entirely carnivorous and eat berries and seaweed as well.
A family of foxes can eat several dozen lemmings in one day. When they are vulnerable in the snow den shortly after they are born, they will eat young ringed seals in the same way they attack lemmings under the snow. They will detect them by sound and then jump on and punch through the snow covering layer.
Threats To The Arctic Fox
The absence of prey is the Arctic fox’s most common threat. This species is also threatened by illness and genetic pollution of the species by foxes bred in captivity.
Because of its extremely high-quality fur coat, the Arctic fox was hugely impacted by the fur trade. This fox is still hunted now, especially by native populations who live close to them. The fur trade has significantly decreased, and the Arctic fox is not as vulnerable as it once was to over-exploitation.
Climate change is another threat affecting the Arctic fox because the Arctic temperatures are rising twice as fast as anywhere else in the world. In the Arctic, warming temperatures can lead to many changes, including decreased sea ice, permafrost melting, and rising sea levels.
- PBS. “Arctic Fox – Alopex Lagopus – NatureWorks.” Nature Works, New Hampshire PBS, nhpbs.org/natureworks/arcticfox.htm. Accessed 2 Feb. 2021.
- Middlebrook, C. 2007. “Vulpes lagopus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 01, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Vulpes_lagopus/
- firstname.lastname@example.org. “Arctic Fox Species Profile, Alaska Department of Fish and Game.” The Great State Of Alaska, State of Alaska · Department of Fish and Game, www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=arcticfox.printerfriendly#:%7E:text=Migration,movements%20of%20several%20hundred%20kilometers. Accessed 2 Feb. 2021.
- “Natural History.” Center For Biological Diversity, The Center for Biological Diversity, www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Arctic_fox/natural_history.html. Accessed 2 Feb. 2021.
- Oldham, Cydni. “Arctic Fox.” Animals Network, Animals.NET, 29 Jan. 2019, animals.net/arctic-fox.
- “Arctic Fox Facts and Information | SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.” SeaWorld, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, seaworld.org/animals/facts/mammals/arctic-fox. Accessed 2 Feb. 2021.