The Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus)
The arctic fox lives only in the northern most parts of the northern hemisphere. This area includes Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia. That being said, this fox does share some of its habitat range with the red fox, mainly in its southernmost regions. The body shape of this fox is rounder than most other foxes which helps to store body heat, which can help keep it warm in some of the coldest weather imaginable. Pair that along with its thick coat of fur and an increase in the amount of body fat by around 50% to insulate them, and you have a warm, happy fox!
Speaking of fur, this clever fox changes its coats to match the season. Like most of the arctic animals, it has a brownish coat during the summer. And when winter comes, it grows a long, thick coat of white fur that even covers the undersides of its paws. These are some extraordinary adaptations!
Arctic foxes, like most foxes, are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Lemmings, mice, fish, various birds/seabirds, small seals, and snowshoe hares make up the bulk of its meat diet. However, this clever fox will often follow polar bears (from a safe distance, of course) and wait for them to finish a meal before gobbling up the leftovers. This scavenger technique comes in handy when food isn’t as available. In the spring and summer, there is a variety of plant life the arctic fox can harvest for its meals which include various berries and roots, amongst other things.
Being one of the smaller animals of the arctic, the fox can become the prey of polar bears, arctic wolves, and lynxes. Sometimes the winter coat can help the fox blend in with the snow to avoid being seen but otherwise, it must rely on its cunning and speed to keep itself from being caught.
Both the male and female fox will mate for life and raise their kits together. While the average litter of kits is between five and eight, they can have as much as 25 kits, which is the most possible of any species of fox. Arctic fox kits are usually born in May, and while that might be when things start to get warm down here in the US, it is still quite cold in the arctic. It can be challenging for young kits to stay warm and sadly, some may perish.
Unlike the dens of most other foxes, which are small single, double or triple roomed underground spaces, the arctic fox makes complex dens with many tunnels and room. These can cover quite a bit of space, sometimes up to 1200 square yards. That’s huge!
Stay tuned for our next exciting episode of Vulpinology 101!