Adapted to live in some of the harshest conditions on earth, the arctic fox can survive in temperatures as low as -50C (-58F).
Amazing Facts About the Arctic Fox
- The Arctic Fox lives on the arctic tundra in some of the harshest conditions on earth. Temperatures can fall as low as -50C (-58F)! They have the best insulating fur in the whole of the animal kingdom.
- Adapted to survive in harsh conditions, arctic foxes have a round compact body, short legs, short ears and small muzzles, reducing the surface area exposed to the cold air. Their deep, thick fur helps to maintain a consistent body temperature.
- Alopex lagopus, arctic foxes scientific name means ‘hare-footed fox’ as even their paws are covered in fur, similarly to a hares. This reduces heat-loss and enables the foxes to walk better on ice.
- Their tail or brush, is around 13” long, used to aid balance but also acts as a blanket when they are sleeping. Arctic foxes can curl their tail around their face to protect their nose from the cold.
- An arctic fox’s fur changes dependent on the season, it is white in summer to blend into the snow, preventing prey from seeing the fox. They shed in spring to reveal grey fur underneath. The shade of their summer fur is dependent on where the foxes live – those which live in areas such as a rocky shore line will be brown in order to blend in.
- The Lemming, a small rodent, is one of the arctic fox’s main prey, so much so that populations of fox can fluctuate dependent on lemming numbers.
- When hunting in winter, arctic foxes incredible hearing allows them to locate the precise location of their prey under the snow. They will leap up in the air and pounce down into the snow on the prey below.
- Highly opportunistic animals, arctic foxes will sometimes follow polar bears, scavenging their leftovers.
- Carnivores and scavengers, arctic foxes may even catch seal pups on occasion. They have been known to eat berries in summer months.
- In Iceland, the arctic fox is the only native land mammal.
- Arctic foxes mate for life, with both parents helping to raise the pups. Litter sizes range from 6-14 with an average litter size of 11 which is the largest litter size recorded for any wild mammal!
- They live in burrows, which can be hundreds of years old, passed down through generations of foxes.
- The arctic fox is very mobile. They will travel large distances across land and sea ice in search of food.
- Climate change is seriously affecting the Arctic, temperatures are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the world causing changes such as reduced sea ice, rising sea levels and melting permafrost. This will affect arctic foxes, changing their habitats, prey availability and is linked to the expansion of the red fox northward. Red foxes are bigger and more dominant than the arctic fox, they will even kill arctic foxes in areas where territories overlap.
- Type: Mammal
- Life span: 3-6 years
- Size: Length 76-110cm (2.3-3.5ft), Height (shoulder): 20-30cm (9-12”)
- Weight: 2.9-9.5kg
- Habitat: Tundra
- Range: Entire Arctic tundra - Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia, Norway, Scandinavia and Iceland
- Scientific name: Alopex lagopus