Vulpes lagopus

Meet the Arctic Fox

Vulpes lagopus

Author: Nessie O’Neil

Arctic Fox Classification

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Genus and Species: Vulpes lagopus

a photo of an arctic fox

Foxy Fun Facts

a photo of an arctic fox

Least Concern

6-16 lbs
10-12 inches at the shoulder

3-4 years in the wild

12 years in captivity

These foxes live in the Arctic Tundra biome and are found in Northern Europe, Northern Asia, and Northern North America. They are the only land mammal native to Iceland.

Side note: Arctic Foxes do not live in Antarctica! 

An arctic fox will generally eat any small animal they can find. This includes pikas, lemmings, snowshoe hares, birds, fish, and carrion. They’ll also eat berries and seaweed when it’s available. Bird eggs make a up a large portion of this species’ diet.

Arctic foxes are built to handle the extreme cold!

Distinct Features of the Arctic Fox

The Arctic fox is an animal that adapted to thrive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. Compact in build, the Arctic fox has a rounded body, short muzzle, and bushy tail, all of which minimize the surface area exposed to the cold and help conserve body heat. Its keen sense of hearing also enables it to locate prey beneath the snow.

Its primary feature is its thick, warm fur that changes color with the seasons. In the wild, arctic foxes display two distinct coat colors: white and blue. White Arctic foxes undergo seasonal changes to match their surroundings. This color variety turns white during winter and transitions to dark brown/gray with light gray along their abdomen in the summer. Blue Arctics, on the other hand, typically exhibit dark blue-gray colors in summer and slightly lighter blue-gray tones in winter.

A photo of a white arctic fox
A white Arctic fox
A photo of an blue arctic fox standing on leaves and dirt
A blue Arctic fox

Arctic Fox Diet and Hunting

Arctic foxes are opportunistic eaters and have a varied diet to ensure survival in an environment where food can be scarce. Their primary prey includes lemmings, voles, and other small rodents. However, they’re also known to eat birds, eggs, fish, and even carrion. In leaner times, they may scavenge the leftovers from larger predators like polar bears.

Thanks to their sharp hearing, Arctic foxes can detect the movement of prey beneath the snow. Once they’ve pinpointed their target, they’ll pounce through the snow to capture it.

The arctic fox does not hibernate as they have no need to! As mentioned earlier, the arctic fox evolved to survive and thrive in the harsh winter environment. In addition to their fluffy coat, the arctic fox will accumulate fat reserves in autumn. These fat reserves can increase their weight by up to 50%. Given the harsh winters in their habitat, this fox species is known to cache surplus food as a reserve when resources are abundant.

Behavior and Reproduction

Arctic foxes are known for their social behavior, often forming monogamous pairs during the breeding season. Their mating season ranges from April to June, after which the female gives birth to a litter. An Arctic fox litter usually consists of 6-8 pups, but some mothers can give birth to as many as 15! Larger litters are common when food is abundant.

Both parents play an active role in rearing their young. They dig intricate burrow systems, also known as dens, which protect the young from predators and harsh weather. These dens, sometimes centuries old, are used by multiple generations.

When food is scarce, these foxes will journey as far as they need to to find something to eat. Remarkably, these foxes can cover extensive distances of up to ninety-six miles in a single day. Consequently, due to their increased movement, arctic foxes face a higher risk of encountering predators or becoming targets themselves. Thus, their mortality rate surpasses that of foxes residing in a fixed area.. Tragically, most arctic foxes in the wild do not make it to their first birthday.

Conservation

While the Arctic fox has a broad range and is not currently listed as endangered, it faces threats primarily due to climate change. The warming Arctic impacts the distribution of their primary prey, the snow-covered landscapes they rely on for camouflage, and increases competition with the larger red foxes encroaching into their territory.

Arctic Foxes as Pets

Having a pet Arctic fox can be like living in a fantastic frozen fantasy, or it can make you feel like you’re in a brutal winter that never ends. Your experience will all depend on how well prepared you are. Arctic foxes aren’t an animal that just anyone can care for, but if you are interested having an arctic fox as a pet, then you’re in the right place

Our Arctic Foxes

A photo of a white arctic fox
Bobby
A photo of an blue color morph arctic fox at an animal sanctuary
Ivy
A photo of a white arctic fox laying in a fox enclosure at an animal sanctuary in tennessee
Marshie
A photo of an blue arctic fox standing on leaves and dirt
Phineas
A photo of a polar color morph arctic fox leaping playfully inside an arctic fox enclosure at an exotic pet sanctuary in tennessee
Ferb

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