Arctic Fox

Found further north than any other member of the dog family, the Arctic fox is well-adapted to this incredibly harsh environment.

They lives in the Scandinavia and is also found in Greenland, Siberia and the high Arctic of North America. The fox’s habitat is barren tundra along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. They also stray into pine forests found in the north and on high mountain slopes. In winter they move out on to the frozen sea.

The temperatures in these habitats often plunge to far below freezing. Arctic foxes keep out the cold by having a extra thick coat that even grows over the soles of the feet.

Arctic foxes are scavengers, taking whatever they can find. There is not very much food among the snow and ice, and Arctic foxes feed on anything they can find. In summer, they feed on small mammals, such as lemmings, but in winter they have to diversify their diet to survive, eating insects, berries, carrion and even the faeces of other animals. When the land is iced over, they rely on sea birds and fish for their meat.

They live in underground dens, sometimes in small groups, although there is likely to be a dominant pair. Other group members help to find food to rear then-offspring. Arctic foxes have difficulty constructing dens because the ground is frozen. As a result, many generations of Arctic foxes den in the same place, often at the foot of cliffs or mounds, sometimes for hundreds of years.

Arctic foxes have the warmest coat of any mammal - some species have more hair but it is not as warm as the fox's. Arctic foxes occur where there are no trees to provide cover, so they rely on their colouration to conceal their presence and make it easier to hunt. They exhibit two colour forms. Those that live in exposed tundra regions are more or less white all year around, becoming paler in winter. In warmer places where the snow melts in summer, the white foxes become grey. By contrast, the foxes that live in coastal areas, which are generally less exposed, are a pale brown in summer and tinged pale blue in winter.

Distribution: Occurs in the far north, extending across the circumpolar region. Present in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland as well as in northern Europe and Asia.

Habitat: Arctic tundra, pine forests and sea ice.

Weight: 3 - 3.5 kg (6.5 - 7.5 lb); males are heavier.

Length: 83 cm (33 in).

Maturity: 10 months, although many young stay with parents for second year.

Gestation Period: 52 days.

Breeding: 6 - 15; weaning occurs at 35 - 63 days.

Food: Omnivorous, eating lemmings, birds, eggs and fish; even scavenges on the carcasses of large marine mammals such as seals, plus insects and berries in summer.

Lifespan: 5-7 years in the wild; up to 10 in captivity.

Status: Common.

Muzzle

The short muzzle prevents heat loss. The nose is black, as are the claws.

Colouration

Not all Arctic foxes are white; some are greyish-brown (described as ‘blue’).

Tail

The fur covering the tail, as elsewhere, is dense, giving it a bushy appearance.

In summer, after the snow has melted, the coats are generally darker in colour.

HUNTING

Arctic foxes are highly adaptable in their feeding habits, scavenging on carrion and sometimes even attacking seal pups.

Gallery of Arctic Fox