Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: Arctic fox, white fox
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY: Canidae
GENUS SPECIES: Alopex lagopus

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: 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.
SIZE: 109 cm (43 in)
WEIGHT: 2.7-4.5 kg (6-10 lb)
DIET: Prefers small mammals; also eats insects, seabirds, fish, seals, berries, carrion, and even stool. During summer months when food is plentiful, arctic foxes collect a surplus, storing it in their dens.
GESTATION: 49-57 days; usual litter size is 5-8 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
LIFE SPAN: 14-18 years
RANGE: Arctic regions of Eurasia, North America, Greenland, and Iceland
HABITAT: Arctic and alpine tundra (treeless area), usually in coastal areas. Arctic foxes build dens in low mounds (1-4 m high) in the open tundra or in a pile of rocks at the base of a cliff.
POPULATION: GLOBAL Not available
STATUS: IUCN Not listed
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed

FUN FACTS

1. Communal and nomadic; the foxes form small bands and scavenge for food together.
2. A family group consists of one male, two females (called vixens), and their young - if any. One of the vixens is a nonbreeding juvenile born the previous year, who stays to help care for the next litter.
3. Arctic foxes are monogamous, usually mating for life. The father helps care for the young.
4. 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. The foxes’ paws are sheathed in dense fur during the winter (unlike other canids), which is why they are named lagopus ("rabbit-footed").
5. 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.

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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