Arctic foxes are found in the treeless tundra extending through the arctic regions of Eurasia, North America, Greenland, and Iceland. (Angerbjörn, et al., 2005)
Arctic foxes are found mainly in arctic and alpine tundra, usually in coastal areas.
Arctic foxes are monogamous and usually mate for life.
Mating occurs from April to July, births take place from April through June for the first litter, and July or August for the second litter. The average gestation period is about 49-57 days. The number of young per litter varies with the availability of food, especially lemmings. The usual litter size is 5-8 cubs, although as many as 25 have been known. The young are weaned at about 2-4 weeks and emerge from the den. They reach sexual maturity in as little as ten months. The male parent stays with the cubs, helping to feed them. He mates with the female a few weeks after the first litter is born.
The foxes live a communal and nomadic life, often forming small bands to scavenge the countryside for food. They do not hibernate during the winter months. Foxes also construct homes called dens, often in cliffs at least 1.6 km apart, in which a family social group inhabits. This group consists of one adult male, the litter, and two vixens--one of the vixens a nonbreeding animal born the previous year that stays to help care for the next litter. An arctic fox generally makes its den in a low mound 1-4 meters high in the open tundra, or in a pile of rocks at the base of a cliff. These dens have 4-8 entrances and a system of tunnels covering about 30 square meters. Some of these dens have been used for centuries by generations of foxes.
The arctic fox is an opportunistic feeder, eating practically any animal, alive or dead. Although it prefers small mammals, it will eat insects, berries, carrion, and even the stool of animals or human beings. Generally, its winter diet consists of marine mammals, invertebrates, sea birds, fish, and seals. For populations living more inland and in the summer, the diet consists mostly of lemmings. During the summer months, when food is much more readily available, arctic foxes collect a surplus amount of food and carries it back to their dens, where it is stored under stones for later use.
The fur of the arctic fox is prized by the fur industry, and these foxes have been intensively trapped. On the Pribiloff Islands of Alaska, arctic foxes have been regularly farmed for their fur since 1865, and they have long been important to the economy of the native people living withing their range.
In Iceland, arctic foxes sometimes take lambs from sheep flocks. Farmers have been encouraged since the late thirteenth century to shoot and/or kill these predators in order to protect their livestock.
The arctic fox has been driven out of some regions, such as northern Scandinavia, because of predators like the red fox. The arctic fox has been hunted by humans for its pelt, and also hunted in Iceland because of being a pest to sheep farmers. Humans also keep arctic foxes in captivity in fur farms. Nevertheless, populations have remained relatively stable.
The arctic fox's paws are sheathed in dense fur during the winter,unlike other canids and giving it the name " lagopus" (which means " the rabbit footed"). The fur of the arctic fox changes twice every year. The winter fur is entirely white, and the summer coat ranges from grey to brown on the back, to somewhat lighter on the belly. Foxes may retain their darker coat throughout the year in areas of less severe climate.
Tanya Dewey (author), Animal Diversity Web.
Candice Middlebrook (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
flesh of dead animals.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
a distribution that more or less circles the Arctic, so occurring in both the Nearctic and Palearctic biogeographic regions.
Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.
the regions of the earth that surround the north and south poles, from the north pole to 60 degrees north and from the south pole to 60 degrees south.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.
Grzimek. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Volume IV. McGraw Hill Publishing Co. NewYork.
Angerbjörn, A., P. Hersteinsson, T. Tannerfeldt. 2005. "Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus)" (On-line). IUCN Canid Specialist Group. Accessed September 27, 2007 at http://www.canids.org/species/Alopex_lagopus.htm.