(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

The Arctic fox, the scientific name Vulpes lagopus, also referred to as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox is a small fox native to the Arctic areas of the Northern Hemisphere and customary all through the Arctic tundra biome.

Arctic Fox Conservation

It’s effectively tailored to dwelling in chilly environments and is greatest identified for its thick, heat fur that can also be used as camouflage.

Within the wild, most people don’t dwell previous their first yr however some distinctive ones survive as much as 11 years.

Its physique size ranges from 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 in), with a typically rounded physique form to reduce the escape of physique warmth.

The Arctic fox preys on many small creatures resembling lemmings, voles, ringed seal pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds. It additionally eats carrion, berries, seaweed, and bugs, and different small invertebrates.

Arctic foxes type monogamous pairs in the course of the breeding season and so they keep collectively to lift their younger in complicated underground dens.

Often, different relations might help in elevating their younger. Pure predators of the Arctic fox are golden eagles, polar bears, wolverines, purple foxes, wolves, and grizzly bears.


Arctic foxes should endure a temperature distinction of as much as 90–100 °C (160–180 °F) between the exterior setting and their inside core temperature.

To stop warmth loss, the Arctic fox curls up tightly tucking its legs and head beneath its physique and behind its furry tail.

This place offers the fox the smallest floor space to quantity ratio and protects the least insulated areas. Arctic foxes additionally keep heat by getting out of the wind and residing in their dens.

Though the Arctic foxes are energetic year-round and don’t hibernate, they try and protect fats by lowering their locomotor exercise.

They construct up their fat reserves within the autumn, typically rising their physique weight by greater than 50%. This offers better insulation in the course of the winter and a supply of vitality when meals are scarce.


Within the spring, the Arctic fox’s consideration switches to replica and a house for his or her potential offspring.

They dwell in massive dens in frost-free, barely raised floor. These are complicated methods of tunnels overlaying as a lot as 1,000 m2 (1,200 sq yd) and are sometimes in eskers, lengthy ridges of sedimentary materials deposited in previously glaciated areas.

These dens could also be in existence for a lot of a long time and are utilized by many generations of foxes.

Arctic foxes have a tendency to pick out dens that might be simply accessible with many entrances, and which might be clear from snow and ice making it simpler to burrow in.

The Arctic fox builds and chooses dens that face southward in the direction of the solar, which makes the den hotter.

Arctic foxes choose massive, maze-like dens for predator evasion and a fast escape particularly when purple foxes are within the space.

Natal dens are sometimes present in rugged terrain, which can present extra safety for the pups. However, the dad and mom may also relocate litters to close-by dens to keep away from predators.

When purple foxes are usually not within the area, Arctic foxes will use dens that the purple fox beforehand occupied.

Shelter high quality is extra necessary to the Arctic fox than the proximity of spring prey to a den.

The primary prey within the tundra is lemmings, which is why the white fox is usually known as the “lemming fox.” The white fox’s replica charges replicate the lemming inhabitant’s density, which cyclically fluctuates each 3–5 years.

When lemmings are plentiful, the white fox can provide start to 18 pups, however, they typically don’t reproduce when meals are scarce.

The “coastal fox” or blue fox lives in an setting the place meal availability is comparatively constant, and they’ll have as many as 5 pups yearly.

Breeding often takes place in April and Might, and the gestation interval is about 52 days. Litters might comprise as many as 25 (the most important litter dimension within the order Carnivora).

The younger emerge from the den when Three to Four weeks previous and are weaned by 9 weeks of age.

Arctic foxes are primarily monogamous and each dad and mom will take care of the offspring. When predators and prey are plentiful, Arctic foxes usually tend to be promiscuous (exhibited in each woman and man) and show extra complicated social constructions. Bigger packs of foxes consisting of breeding or non-breeding males or females can guard a single territory extra proficiently to extend pup survival.

When sources are scarce, competitors will increase and the variety of foxes in a territory decreases. On the coasts of Svalbard, the frequency of complicated social constructions is bigger than inland foxes that stay monogamous on account of meal availability.

In Scandinavia, there are extra complicated social constructions in comparison with different populations because of the presence of the purple fox. Additionally, conservationists are supplying declining inhabitants with supplemental meals.

One distinctive case, nevertheless, is Iceland the place monogamy is essentially the most prevalent. The older offspring (1-year-olds) typically stay inside their mum or dad’s territory although predators are absent and there are fewer sources, which can point out kin choice within the fox.


Arctic foxes typically eat any small animal they will discover, together with lemmings, voles, different rodents, hares, birds, eggs, fish, and carrion.

They scavenge on carcasses left by bigger predators resembling wolves and polar bears, and in instances of shortage additionally, eat their feces.

In areas the place they’re current, lemmings are their commonest prey, and a household of foxes can eat dozens of lemmings every day. In some places in northern Canada, an excessive seasonal abundance of migrating birds that breed within the space might present a necessary meal supply.

On the coast of Iceland and different islands, their weight loss plan consists predominantly of birds. Throughout April and Might, the Arctic fox additionally preys on ringed seal pups when the younger animals are confined to a snow den and are comparatively helpless. Additionally, they devour berries and seaweed, so they might be thought of as omnivores.

This fox is a major bird-egg predator, consuming eggs of all besides the most important tundra chicken species. When meals are overabundant, the Arctic fox buries (caches) the excess as a reserve.

Arctic foxes survive harsh winters and meals shortage by both hoarding meals or storing physique fats. Fats are deposited subcutaneously and viscerally in Arctic foxes. Firstly of winter, the foxes have roughly 14740 kJ of vitality storage from fats alone.

Utilizing the bottom BMR worth measured in Arctic foxes, a median-sized fox (3.5 kg (7.7 lb)) would wish 471 kJ/day in the course of the winter to outlive.

Arctic foxes can purchase goose eggs (from better snow geese in Canada) at a price of two.7–7.

Three eggs/h, and so they store 80–97% of them. Scats present proof that they eat the eggs in the course of the winter after caching.

Isotope evaluation exhibits that eggs can nonetheless be eaten after a yr, and the metabolizable vitality of a saved goose egg solely decreases by 11% after 60 days (a recent egg has about 816 kJ).

Researchers have additionally famous that some eggs saved in the summertime are accessed later the next spring previous to reproduction.


The Arctic fox lives in among the most frigid extremes on the planet, however, they don’t begin to shiver till the temperature drops to −70 °C (−94 °F). Amongst its diversifications for survival within the chilly is its dense, multilayered pelage, which offers glorious insulation.

Moreover, the Arctic fox is the one canid whose footpads are lined in fur. There are two genetically distinct coat shade morphs: white and blue.

The white morph has seasonal camouflage, white in winter, and brown alongside the again with gentle gray across the stomach in the summer. The blue morph is usually a darkish blue, brown, or gray shade year-round.

Though the blue allele is dominant over the white allele, 99% of the Arctic fox inhabitants are the white morph. The fur of the Arctic fox offers the perfect insulation of any mammal.

The fox has a low floor space to quantity ratio, as evidenced by its typically compact physique form, quick muzzle and legs, and quick, thick ears. Since much less of its floor space is uncovered to the Arctic chilly, much less warmth escapes from its physique.

Sensory modalities

The Arctic fox has a useful listening to vary between 125 Hz–16 kHz with a sensitivity that’s ≤ 60 dB in air, and a median peak sensitivity of 24 dB at Four kHz. Total, the Arctic foxes listening to is much less delicate than the canine and the package fox.

The Arctic fox and the package fox have a low upper-frequency restriction in comparison with the home canine and different carnivores.

The Arctic fox can simply hear lemmings burrowing beneath 4-5 inches of snow. When it has situated its prey, it pounces and punches by the snow to catch its prey.

The Arctic fox additionally has an eager sense of odor. They will odor carcasses that might be typically left by polar bears wherever from 10–40 km.

It’s doable that they use their sense of odor to additionally observe down polar bears. Moreover, Arctic foxes can odor and discover frozen lemmings beneath 46–77 cm of snow and may detect a subnivean seal lair beneath 150 cm of snow.


The Arctic fox comprises advantageous genes to beat excessive chilly and hunger durations. Transcriptome sequencing has recognized two genes that might be beneath optimistic choice:

Glycolipid switch protein area containing 1 (GLTPD1) and V-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog 2 (AKT2). GLTPD1 is concerned with fatty acid metabolism, whereas AKT2 pertains to glucose metabolism and insulin signaling.

The common mass particular BMR and complete BMR are 37% and 27% decrease within the winter than the summer season.

The Arctic fox decreases its BMR through metabolic despair within the winter to preserve fats storage and reduce vitality necessities.

In keeping with the newest information, the decrease in the crucial temperature of the Arctic fox is at −7 °C within the winter and 5 °C in the summertime.

It was generally believed that the Arctic fox had a decrease in crucial temperature under −40 °C.

Nonetheless, some scientists have concluded that this stat will not be correct because it was by no means examined utilizing the right gear.

About 22% of the full physique floor space of the Arctic fox dissipates warmth readily in comparison with purple foxes at 33%.

The areas which have the best warmth loss are the nostril, ears, legs, and toes, which is helpful in the summertime for thermal warmth regulation.

Additionally, the Arctic fox has a helpful mechanism of their nostril for evaporative cooling like canine, which retains the mind cool in the course of the summer season and train.

The thermal conductivity of Arctic fox fur in the summertime and winter is identical; nevertheless, the thermal conductance of the Arctic fox within the winter is decreasing than in the summer season since fur thickness will increase by 140%.

In the summertime, the thermal conductance of the Arctic foxes’ body is 114% increased than in the winter, however, their physique core temperature is fixed year-round.

A method that Arctic foxes regulate their physique temperature is by using a countercurrent warmth change within the blood of their legs.

Arctic foxes can continuously preserve their toes above the tissue freezing level (−1 °C) when standing on chilly substrates without dropping mobility or feeling ache.

They do that by rising vasodilation and blood movement to a capillary rete within the padded floor, which is in direct contact with the snow quite than your entire foot.

They selectively vasoconstrict blood vessels within the heart of the footpad, which conserves vitality and minimizes warmth loss.

Arctic foxes preserve the temperature of their paws independently from the core temperature. If the core temperature drops, the pad of the foot will stay continuously above the tissue freezing level.


The common head-and-body size of the male is 55 cm (22 in), with a variety of 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 in), whereas the feminine averages 52 cm (20 in) with a variety of 41 to 55 cm (16 to 22 in).

In some areas, no distinction in dimension is seen between women and men. The tail is about 30 cm (12 in) lengthy in each sex.

The peak on the shoulder is 25 to 30 cm (9.eight to 11.eight in). On common males weigh 3.5 kg (7.7 lb), with a variety of three.2 to 9.4 kg (7.1 to 20.7 lb), whereas females common 2.9 kg (6.Four lb), with a variety of 1.Four to three.2 kg (3.1 to 7.1 lb).


Apart from the nominate subspecies, the frequent Arctic fox, V. l. lagopus, 4 different subspecies of this fox have been described:

Bering Islands Arctic fox, V. l. beringensis
Greenland Arctic fox, V. l. foragoapusis
Iceland Arctic fox, V. l. fuliginosus
Pribilof Islands Arctic fox, V. l. pribilofensis

Distribution and habitat

The Arctic fox has a circumpolar distribution and happens in Arctic tundra habitats in northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America.

Its vary consists of Greenland, Iceland, Fennoscandia, Svalbard, Jan Mayen (the place it was hunted to extinction), and different islands within the Barents Sea, northern Russia, islands within the Bering Sea, Alaska, and Canada as far south as Hudson Bay.

Within the late 19th century, it was launched into the Aleutian Islands southwest of Alaska. Nonetheless, the inhabitants on the Aleutian Islands are presently being eradicated in conservation efforts to protect the native chicken inhabitants.

It largely inhabits tundra and packs ice, however can also be current in Canadian boreal forests (northeastern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan, northern Manitoba, Northern Ontario, Northern Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador) and the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

They’re discovered at elevations as much as 3,000 m (9,800 ft) above sea degree and have been seen on sea ice near the North Pole.

The Arctic fox is the one land mammal native to Iceland. It got here to the remote North Atlantic island on the finish of the final ice age, strolling over the frozen sea.

The Arctic Fox Heart in Súðavík comprises an exhibition on the Arctic fox and conducts research on the effect of tourism on the inhabitants.

Its vary over the last ice age was rather more intensive than it’s now, and fossil stays of the Arctic fox have been discovered over a lot of northern Europe and Siberia.

The color of the fox’s coat additionally determines the place they’re probably to be discovered.

The white morph primarily lives inland and blends in with the snowy tundra, whereas the blue morph occupies the coasts as a result of its darkish shade blends in with the cliffs and rocks.

Arctic fox

Migrations and journey

Throughout the winter, 95.5% of Arctic foxes make the most of commuting journeys, which stay throughout the fox’s residence vary. Commuting journeys in Arctic foxes final lower than Three days and happen between 0–2.9 instances a month.

Nomadism is present in 3.4% of the foxes, and loop migrations (the place the fox travels to a brand new vary, then returns to its residence vary) are the least frequent at 1.1%.

Arctic foxes in Canada that endure nomadism and migrations voyage from the Canadian archipelago to Greenland and northwestern Canada. The length and distance traveled between women and men will not be considerably totally different.

Arctic foxes nearer to goose colonies (situated on the coasts) are much less prone to migrate. In the meantime, foxes experiencing low-density lemming populations usually tend to make sea ice journeys.

Residency is frequent within the Arctic fox inhabitants in order that they will preserve their territories.

Migratory foxes have a mortality price >Three instances increased than resident foxes. Nomadic habits turn into extra frequent because of the foxes’ age.

In July 2019, the Norwegian Polar Institute reported the story of a yearling feminine which was fitted with a GPS monitoring machine after which launched by their researchers on the east coast of Spitsbergen within the Svalbard group of islands.

The younger fox crossed the polar ice from Norway to Greenland in 21 days, a distance of 1,512 kilometers (940 mi).

She then moved on to Ellesmere Island in northern Canada, overlaying a complete recorded distance of three,506 kilometers (2,179 mi) in 76 days, earlier than her GPS tracker stopped working.

She averaged simply over 46 kilometers (29 mi) a day and managed as a lot as 155 kilometers (96 mi) in a single day.

Conservation standing

The conservation standing of the species is generally good and several other hundred thousand people are estimated to stay incomplete.

The IUCN has assessed it as being of “least concern”. Nonetheless, the Scandinavian mainland inhabitants are acutely endangered, regardless of being legally shielded from searching and persecution for a number of a long time.

The estimate of the grownup inhabitants in all of Norway, Sweden, and Finland is fewer than 200 people.

In consequence, the populations of arctic fox have been fastidiously studied and inventoried in locations such because the Vindelfjällens Nature Reserve (Sweden), which has the arctic fox as its image.

The abundance of the Arctic fox tends to fluctuate in a cycle together with the inhabitants of lemmings and voles (a 3- to 4-year cycle).

The populations are particularly weak in the course of the years when the prey inhabitants crash and uncontrolled trapping has virtually eradicated two subpopulations.

The pelts of Arctic foxes with a slate-blue coloration had been particularly precious. They had been transported to numerous beforehand fox-free Aleutian Islands in the course of the 1920s.

This system was profitable when it comes to rising the inhabitants of blue foxes, however, their predation of Aleutian Canada geese conflicted with the purpose of preserving that species.

The Arctic fox is dropping the floor to the bigger purple fox. This has been attributed to local weather change—the camouflage worth of its lighter coat decreases with much less snow cowl

Purple foxes dominate the place their ranges start to overlap by killing Arctic foxes and their kits.

An alternate rationalization of the purple fox’s beneficial properties includes the grey wolf.

Traditionally, it has saved purple fox numbers down, however, because the wolf has been hunted to close extinction in a lot of its former vary, the purple fox inhabitants have grown bigger, and it has taken over the area of interest of prime predator.

In areas of northern Europe, applications are in place that enables the searching of purple foxes within the Arctic fox’s earlier vary.

As with many different recreation species, the perfect sources of historic and large-scale inhabitants’ information are searching bag information and questionnaires. A number of potential sources of error happen in such information collections.

As well as, numbers differ broadly between years because of the massive inhabitant’s fluctuations. Nonetheless, the full inhabitants of the Arctic fox have to be within the order of a number of a hundred thousand animals.

The world inhabitants of Arctic foxes are thus not endangered, however, two Arctic fox subpopulations are.

One is on Medny Island (Commander Islands, Russia), which was diminished by some 85–90%, to around 90 animals, on account of mange brought on by an ear tick launched by canine within the 1970s.

The inhabitants are presently beneath remedy with antiparasitic medication, however, the consequence remains to be unsure.

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The opposite threatened inhabitants are the ones in Fennoscandia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula).

These inhabitants decreased drastically across the beginning of the 20th century on account of excessive fur costs, which prompted extreme searching additionally throughout the inhabitants’ lows.

The inhabitants have remained at a low density for greater than 90 years, with extra reductions over the last decade.

The full inhabitants estimate for 1997 is around 60 adults in Sweden, 11 adults in Finland, and 50 in Norway. From Kola, there are indications of an identical scenario, suggesting inhabitants of around 20 adults.

The Fennoscandian inhabitants thus number around 140 breeding adults. Even after native lemming peaks, the Arctic fox inhabitants tend to break down again to ranges dangerously near nonviability.

The Arctic fox is classed as a “prohibited new organism” beneath New Zealand’s Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, stopping it from being imported into the nation.


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