The arctic fox: a true survivor and practitioner
The arctic fox must be one of the best-adapted foxes out there. There are eight different species of arctic fox and 5% of the arctic foxes are so-called blue foxes that develop a bluish coat in winter. The arctic foxes love lemmings. The number of lemmings varies from year to year, but an arctic fox is a real survivor. If there is no food, he goes on a long journey until he finds enough food. If there is no castle for him, he will stay outside. He makes the best of everything and is therefore a real practitioner. The arctic fox suffers from hunting, the red fox and is prone to diseases.
- Taxonomic Classification
- Origin Arctic fox
- Types of Arctic Fox
- Features Arctic fox
- Hearing and smell
- Food of the arctic foxes
- Food migration arctic fox
- Way of life of the arctic fox
- Castle of the Arctic Fox
- Reproduction of the arctic fox
- Age arctic fox
- Habitat and distribution arctic fox
- Threat of the arctic foxes
- Empire: Animalia (Animals)
- Strain: Chordata (Chorda animals)
- Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
- Order: Carnivora (Predators)
- Family: Canidae (Canids)
- Genus: Vulpes
- Species: Vulpes lagopus
Origin Arctic fox
Fossils of the ancestral arctic fox have been found in Tibet. The arctic fox moved to North America and Eurasia during the Pleistocene, which lasted from 2.6 million years to 11,700 years ago. The arctic fox is the only mammal native to Iceland. During the last ice age he walked across the frozen sea to the island.
Types of Arctic Fox
The arctic fox is a mammal of the canid family. There are eight different types of arctic fox.
- Vulpes lagopus lagopus (Sweden)
- Vulpes lagopus beringensis (Bering Island of the Komandorski Islands)
- Vulpes lagopus fuliginosus (Iceland)
- Vulpes lagopus groenlandicus (Greenland)
- Vulpes lagopus hallensis (Hall Island in the Bering Sea)
- Vulpes lagopus pribilofensis (on Saint George Island of the Pribilof Islands)
- Vulpes lagopus spitzbergenensis (Spitsbergen)
- Vulpes lagopus ungava (Ungava in Quebec)
Features Arctic fox
The fox has a height of 12 inches and a tail about 12 inches long. The weight is two to six kilos. The male arctic fox is larger than the female. Males grow to 65 centimeters on average and females to 55 centimeters on average. Although in some areas there is no size difference between the male and the female. In winter, the fox has a beautiful even white coat and in summer the coat is gray-brown. An arctic fox differs from the red fox in the area of the ears and muzzle. The ears and muzzle are shorter. Everything is smaller and rounder in the arctic fox than in the red fox because it can hold the heat better. He also has a rounder head and thicker coat. The fox got its name lagopus because of its hairy soles. Lagopus means rabbit’s foot. You can also see where the fox lives by the color of the coat. The foxes are white if they live on the snowy tundra and blue if they live on the coast where the dark blue doesn’t stand out among the cliffs and rocks.
A blue fox is a variation of the arctic fox. The blue fox has a gray-colored coat but in winter the coat turns bluish. Blue foxes are born in a nest with white arctic foxes. 5% of all foxes are blue foxes and they are more common on the coast and other areas with less snow.
The arctic fox moults twice a year. The first time in May and June and the second time in September. It loses its winter coat in May and June and its summer coat in September. The first hairs fall out on the back and sometimes parts of the winter coat remain behind, such as at the tail and on the side.
Hearing and smell
Overall, the arctic fox’s hearing is less sensitive than that of the dog and long-eared kit fox but can easily hear lemmings shuffling under the snow. When he hears one, he pricks and hits through the snow until he catches his victim. The arctic fox has a good nose; they can smell carcasses from a distance of ten to forty kilometers. They can also locate polar bears based on their sense of smell. In addition, they can smell frozen lemmings buried 50 centimeters under the snow.
Food of the arctic foxes
Because the arctic fox mainly lives on lemmings, the number of arctic foxes depends on the number of lemmings that occur in an area. When there are years when there are few lemmings, young animals can occasionally abuse their brothers or sisters in order to be able to eat. The arctic fox also eats other small rodents such as voles. Other snacks include: snow hares, birds, insects, berries, fruits and eggs. If there are enough lemmings, the arctic fox can eat twelve of them in one day. If there is enough food, they keep what they have in a well-hidden place. The arctic fox hunts at night and during the day. In the Arctic region it can be light for 24 hours in summer and in winter it is often only light for a few hours a day. A fox also eats carrion, ie remains of dead animals and washed up fish, as well as shellfish. When food is scarce, they even eat shit. Sometimes they also eat young ringed seals that are quite helpless when they lie in their snow hole.
Food migration arctic fox
A fox travels after its food. Researchers have discovered a GPS-equipped Arctic fox that had traveled more than 3,000 kilometers in a very short time in search of food. When scarcity breaks out, they look for more nutrient-rich areas, even hundreds of kilometers away. They then travel alone or in groups.
Way of life of the arctic fox
In principle, the arctic foxes are monogamous like other fox species. In Iceland the foxes are predominantly monogamous, but on the coast near Svalbard in Spitsbergen the situation is more complex and the social relations are also more complex. When there is plenty of food, they are more likely to keep multiple males, females. Arctic foxes live in pairs or in groups with several males and females who are probably related to each other. In principle, a male only gets young from one female, the other foxes help raise the young. An arctic fox does not hibernate, but to prepare for winter, the body weight of the fox increases by about 50% in autumn. As a result, the fat reserves increase and the fox can use it when there is food shortage. The arctic fox has special genes that allow it to survive extreme weather and food scarcity.
Castle of the Arctic Fox
A castle is very important for the arctic fox. More important than a castle is for other foxes such as the red fox or the island fox. In itself that is of course not surprising in the polar region where it can sometimes be quite cold. Arctic foxes even survive temperatures such as -50 degrees Celsius. A fox only starts to shiver at -70 degrees Celsius. Arctic fox castles consist of an extensive network of corridors and have several entrances and exits, sometimes as many as twelve. Castles can be used for centuries and can also be quite large. Some can be as long as a kilometer. Because the fox usually leaves excrement and food scraps in the vicinity of the castle, the soil is more fertile there than elsewhere and it is possible that more grows there than in the surrounding area. Castles are usually a few kilometers apart. It does happen that the foxes stay in the open air and also have their young there. This can happen when the most suitable areas for castles are already in use. The arctic fox chooses a castle that faces south so that the hole is warmer. The arctic fox likes fortresses with long corridors that form a kind of labyrinth so that they can easily escape, especially if there are red foxes around. The castles are mainly located in rough terrain so that the cubs are better protected. The quality of the castle is very important to the arctic fox, more important than whether there is prey in the vicinity.
Reproduction of the arctic fox
The arctic foxes are fertile from March to April. The gestation period lasts about 50 days. The young are born in May or June. The arctic foxes have quite large throws for a fox. Sometimes they consist of twelve to eighteen cubs. Only in Iceland are the throws significantly smaller.
The young are blind at birth. Only after about fourteen days do the eyes open. The young have dark brown fur. After two weeks you can also see the difference between a blue fox and a white fox. You can see the difference in the gray hairs inside the ears and around the snout of the white fox. After three weeks they can eat solid food. The food is brought by the parents or the helpers. When they are big enough in the fall, they leave the nest. Some foxes stay behind to help raise the young for the next year.
Age arctic fox
The mortality among the young is high, which is probably also the reason that the litters are so great. Except in the years when there are many lemmings, not many young die. After about ten months, the arctic fox is sexually mature. In the wild, an arctic fox lives for a maximum of eleven years, but usually it does not get older than four years. In captivity the animal will live to be fifteen years old.
Habitat and distribution arctic fox
From the fossils that have been found, it appears that the Arctic fox occurred in large parts of Europe and Siberia during the Ice Age. The arctic fox is found in North America, Northern Europe and North Asia. The northernmost area where it occurs is in Greenland and the southernmost area where it occurs is Hudson Bay. The arctic fox was introduced to the Aleutian Islands in the nineteenth century, but that had negative consequences for the bird population (Canada geese) on the island. So they are now trying to eradicate the arctic fox there. The arctic fox loves tundra and occasionally ventures on the ice.
Threat of the arctic foxes
Because of its beautiful fur, the Inuit and Saami hunt the Arctic fox. Due to the large number of young per litter, the arctic fox has increased its chances of survival. Nowadays there are also special fur farms so there is no longer any need to hunt the arctic fox in the wild. The arctic fox’s natural enemies are the golden eagle, wolves, the red fox and gray bears. In itself, the arctic fox is not endangered except for two populations, namely the population living on Medny Island and living in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland). The arctic fox is not an endangered species according to the 2014 IUCN Red List.
In Scandinavia, the arctic fox is almost extinct, with only 120 animals left. The arctic fox in this area is likely to suffer from the red fox that is increasingly entering and taking over its habitat. The red fox used to be threatened by the wolf, but now that the wolf is less common, the red fox has taken its place as the main predator in certain areas. The red fox kills the arctic fox and its cubs.
In some areas, such as Medny Island in Russia, Arctic foxes fell victim to ticks brought in by dogs in the 1970s. At least ninety percent of the foxes have died in those areas where the disease occurred. Today, the remaining foxes are treated with a drug, but the population continues to struggle. There may also be a link with the occurrence of mercury in seafood.
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