Arctic foxes (Vulpes Lagopus or ‘hare footed fox’) are iconic animals of Arctic Tundra. Despite living in rarely visited spots, it gained immense popularity among visitors of Arctic. These small, northern animals have cheeky personality and playful nature, which make them popularly known as the “clowns of the tundra.”
They have incredible adaptations to survive in Earth’s one of the most extreme and coldest places. They gain instant popularity when encountered, and visitors love to photograph these animals. In this article, we are going to share the 20+ facts of this interesting animal, Arctic Fox.
20+ Interesting Facts About Arctic Fox
Fact 1: Many Nicknames
Arctic fox has several nicknames such as polar fox, snow fox, or white fox.
Fact 2: Habitat
The Arctic fox is found in Arctic Tundra, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, Norway, Russia, and Iceland. In the summer, it lives in the tundra at the edge of the forest. They travel long distances across the sea ice and land searching or food. This fox variant came to the isolated North Atlantic Island walking over the frozen sea at the end of the last ice age.
Fact 3: Belongs to Canid Family
Arctic Foxes are related to other foxes, dogs, and wolves being member of the canid family of animals. They are also the sole land mammals that are native to Iceland. Foxes have whiskers on their legs and their face.
Fact 4: Smallest Wild Canid
It is the smallest wild canid of Canada of the size of a large cat found in our houses. Female foxes are smaller than males. The average head-and-body length of the male is 46 to 68 centimeters (18 to 27 inches) and 41 to 55 centimeters (16 to 22 inches) for females.
The 30-35% of their total length is covered with their bushy tails, which is about 30 centimeters (12 inches) long. The bodyweight of average adult males is just 3.2 to 9.4 kilograms (7.1 to 20.7 pounds) and 1.4 to 3.2 kilograms (3.1 to 7.1 pounds) for females because of its small size.
Fact 5: Solitary Animals
Living on the pack ice of Arctic tundra of frigid temperatures, they are primarily solitary animals and generally lonely wanderers. They tend to form monogamous pairs only during the mating season in April and May.
Fact 6: Lifespan
The arctic foxes living in the wilderness, live 3 – 6 years; however, they can live as long as 15 years when kept in captivity.
Fact 7: Extremely Well-Adapted to the Arctic Climate
The body and feet of Arctic Fox are covered with thick fur enabling them maintaining consistent body temperature and providing insulation. Additionally, for their short legs, short muzzle, and short rounded ears, the surface area becomes less and escapes minimum heat. Their thick bushy tails aid its balance and work as a warm cover in cold weather when they wrap it around themselves.
Fact 8: The Warmest Pelt
Out of all the animals found in the Arctic, the Arctic fox has the warmest pelt that could resist temperatures as low as -14 °C (−58 °F). It has a unique heat exchange system, and with the decrease in the temperature, its metabolism increases to provide warmth.
Fact 9: Color Changing Furs
The Arctic fox is the only canid that changes the color of its coat with the seasons and blends well in the environment. In the summer it has a brown or greatcoat with a lighter belly which turns into a thick white one in the winter. It allows them to camouflage with the surrounding rocks and plants in the summer and snow and ice in the winter. Where the snow is not purely white, they change to grayish coat same as snow.
Fact 10: Metabolic Rate Reducing Capacity
The arctic foxes can reduce their metabolic rate by half when food is not available and remain active, thereby saving energy.
Fact 11: Excellent Hearing Ability
The sense of smelling and hearing is excellent in Arctic foxes. They can hear their prey moving under the snow with their small, pointed ears. It can smell a carcass from 10 to 40 km away.
Fact 12: Pigmented Eyes
Arctic foxes have heavily pigmented eyes that protect them from the reflection of glaring sunlight on the snow and ice. Sometimes they also have heterochromia, differently colored eyes. However, they have pretty poor eyesight.
Fact 13: Intelligent Hunting Style
Arctic foxes are carnivores and scavengers and feed on lemmings, rodents, voles, hares, birds, fish, eggs, berries, seaweed and even carcasses left by larger predators. During winter when prey can be scarce, these cheeky foxes follow in the footsteps of the polar bear, Arctic’s premier predator and feed on leftover scraps. They dig into the ground to store food and thus keeping it fresh. When there is an extreme scarcity of food, the arctic fox is even known to eat their own feces.
Fact 14: Breaking Through the Ice to Hunt
It has to break through thick layers of snow to hunt. Upon hearing its prey scurrying under the snow, it jumps high in the air and dives headfirst breaking through the layer of snow onto the prey underneath. The Arctic fox can also run at the speed of around 48 kilometers (30 miles) per hour.
Fact 15: Lifelong Mating
Arctic foxes are monogamous animals, so they mate for life! Young foxes reach sexual maturity at the early age of 10 months.
Fact 16: Varied Sounds
Arctic foxes use a wide range of sounds while communicating with each other. It uses loud yowl for long-distance and high-pitched yelp to warn its kits about potential danger. They most often use their voice during the breeding season.
Fact 17: Large litters based on Food Availability
The females give birth to large litters in the spring; however, in areas with sufficient food, they can have a maximum of 25 offspring. Parents raise pups together during the summer.
Fact 18: Maximum Offspring
Depending on food availability, females usually have 5 – 10 young or kits, but in areas where food is abundant, they can have as many as 25 offspring, which is the most of all wild living mammals
Fact 19: Faster Fat Reserves
The Arctic Fox remain active all year round, and they do not hibernate. They build up fat reserves in the autumn, sometimes increasing body weight by 50% and more. During the winter, this works as greater insulation and a source of energy when food is scarce. As the summer is short in the polar region, the young ones have to grow up very fast and build fat reserves. Failing to do that, the first winter often turns to be fatal for many cubs.
Fact 20: Underground Dens
Arctic foxes live in centuries-old underground dens used by numerous foxes generation after generation. These burrows have extensive tunnel systems. These tunnel systems are often very large, covering up to 1,000 sq. miles (1,200 sq yd) and having up to 150 entrances. They also dig tunnels into the snow in a blizzard to create shelter.
Fact 21: Relation with Polar Bears
The Arctic foxes are usually hunted by polar bears, but surprisingly in Canada, there was a recorded case where both had a strong friendship, played together, and the giant bear even shared his food with his little friend.
Fact 22: Threats
The arctic fox is vulnerable to extreme challenges from climate change and human hunting. The predators of Arctic foxes are humans, polar bears, wolves, and grey wolves. The larger red fox has become the dominant predator of the arctic fox due to its expansion in the areas where arctic fox used to belong. Arctic fox cubs are more vulnerable because of the large birds of prey such as snowy owls. The white winter coloration of the Arctic Fox is also easily visible to its predators.
Humans pose the greatest threat to Arctic foxes by hunting them mainly for their extremely high-quality fur, and a single coat requires as many as 20 foxes.
Fact 23: New Organism
In New Zealand the arctic fox is categorized as a “prohibited new organism” under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, preventing it from being imported into the country.