- Common Name
- Arctic fox, white fox, polar fox
- Genus Species
- Alopex lagopus; some authorities recognize Alopex lagopus
- The Arctic fox has a dense, bushy coat and a long, fluffy tail. There are two color phases. For the white phase, the fox has a thick, white coat during the colder, winter months and a shorter brownish to gray coat in the summer. The blue phase fox, has a long blue-gray coat in the winter and a shorter darker gray coat in the summer.
- 109 cm (43 in.)
- 2.7 to 4.5 kg (6 to 10 lbs.)
- The Arctic Fox is an opportunistic predator and scavenger. In most inland areas, the species is heavily dependent on fluctuating rodent populations. The species' main prey items include lemmings, both Lemmus spp. and Dicrostonyx spp.).
Arctic foxes will also feed on small mammals, seals, reindeer, fish, seabirds, insects, berries, carrion, and even stool. During summer months when food is plentiful, Arctic Foxes collect a surplus, storing it in their dens.
The Arctic Fox also depends on the remains of carrion left by larger predators like the Polar Bear, Grey Wolf, and Wolverine.
- 49 to 57 days; usual litter size is 5 to 8 pups, but litters as large as 25 have been documented. Females normally have one litter sometime between April and June, and a second litter in July or August.
- Sexual Maturity
- As soon as 10 months
Arctic foxes form monogamous pairs during the breeding season. The young are weaned at 2 to 4 weeks at which time they emerge from the den.
- Life Span
- 14 to 18 years
- circumpolar distribution in all Arctic tundra habitats. They can be found in Eurasia, North America, Greenland, Iceland and many Arctic islands.
Arctic Foxes are common over the northern sea-ice where it can move several thousands of kilometers following Polar Bears as scavengers.
They have also been observed on the sea ice up to the North Pole and may occur up to 3,000 m (9,750 ft.) in elevation.
- Arctic and alpine tundra (treeless area), usually in coastal areas. Arctic foxes build dens in low mounds 1 to 4 m high (3.25 to 13 ft.) in the open tundra or in a pile of rocks at the base of a cliff.
- Global: The world population of Arctic Foxes is in the order of several hundred thousand animals. Most populations fluctuate widely in numbers between years in response to varying lemming numbers. In most areas, however, population status is believed to be good. The species is common in the tundra areas of Russia, Canada, coastal Alaska, Greenland and Iceland. Overall, the global population appears to be stable
- IUCN: Least concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed
- Communal and nomadic; the foxes form small bands and scavenge for food together.
- A family group consists of one male, two females (called vixens), and their young. One of the vixens is a nonbreeding juvenile born the previous year, who stays to help care for the next litter.
- Arctic foxes are monogamous, usually mating for life. The father helps care for the young.
- The fur of the Arctic fox has two phases: in the winter, it is entirely white, and in the summer the coat ranges from gray to brown on the back, and somewhat lighter on the belly. Their paws are sheathed in dense fur during the winter (unlike other canids), which is why they are named lagopus ("rabbit-footed").
- Although they have been hunted for their fur and driven away for their predation on domestic sheep, arctic fox numbers remain relatively stable.
Ecology and Conservation
In some areas, populations of arctic foxes are closely tied to the populations of lemmings and other small rodents. In these areas the rodents are the foxes primary source of prey and during cyclic population crashes of rodents, the arctic fox population crashes as well.
Arctic Foxes may fall prey to the Red Fox, Wolverine and Golden Eagle.
Both color phases of arctic fox have been hunted and farmed for their dense fur coats. They have provided an important source of income for native hunters. In more recent years, hunting pressure on arctic foxes has significantly decreased due to a decreased demand for fox fur and alternative sources of income for native peoples.
Arctic foxes are threatened by global warming, competition from the larger, northward-spreading red fox, and hunting and trapping for the fur trade.
In most of its range, the Arctic Fox is not protected. However, the species and its dens have had total legal protection in Sweden since 1928, in mainland Norway since 1930, and in Finland since 1940.
Nowak, Ronald M. (ed.). Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol. II. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game: http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/pubs/notebook/furbear/arcfox.php
Angerbjörn, A. & Tannerfeldt, M. 2014. Vulpes lagopus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T899A57549321. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-2.RLTS.T899A57549321.en. Downloaded on 04 October 2018.
Center for Biological Diversity https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Arctic_fox/natural_history.html/. Downloaded on 04 October 2018.