Arctic fox

Vulpes lagopus

The Arctic fox, also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. It is well adapted to living in cold environments, and is best known for its thick, warm fur that is also used as camouflage.
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Appearance

In the wild, most individuals do not live past their first year but some exceptional ones survive up to 11 years. Its body length ranges from 46 to 68 cm, with a generally rounded body shape to minimize the escape of body heat.
Stare Down I woke this fox up from a nap and it's giving me the once over. Arctic fox,Vulpes lagopus,canada,cute,nature,wildlife,wildlife photography

Naming

Besides the nominate subspecies, the common Arctic fox, ''V. l. lagopus'', four other 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''
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Distribution

The Arctic fox has a circumpolar distribution and occurs in Arctic tundra habitats in northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America. Its range includes Greenland, Iceland, Fennoscandia, Svalbard, Jan Mayen and other islands in the Barents Sea, northern Russia, islands in the Bering Sea, Alaska, and Canada as far south as Hudson Bay.

The Arctic fox is the only land mammal native to Iceland. It came to the isolated North Atlantic island at the end of the last ice age, walking over the frozen sea.
Arctic Fox summer coat Taken at the Point Defiance Zoo. Tacoma, WA Arctic fox,Geotagged,United States,Vulpes lagopus

Status

The conservation status of the species is in general good and several hundred thousand individuals are estimated to remain in total. The IUCN has assessed it as being of "least concern". However, the Scandinavian mainland population is acutely endangered, despite being legally protected from hunting and persecution for several decades.

The estimate of the adult population in all of Norway, Sweden, and Finland is fewer than 200 individuals. As a result, the populations of arctic fox have been carefully studied and inventoried in places such as the Vindelfjällens Nature Reserve, which has the arctic fox as its symbol.
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Behavior

Arctic foxes must endure a temperature difference of up to 90–100 °C between the external environment and their internal core temperature. To prevent heat loss, the Arctic fox curls up tightly tucking its legs and head under its body and behind its furry tail. This position gives the fox the smallest surface area to volume ratio and protects the least insulated areas.

Arctic foxes also stay warm by getting out of the wind and residing in their dens. Although the Arctic foxes are active year-round and do not hibernate, they attempt to preserve fat by reducing their locomotor activity. They build up their fat reserves in the autumn, sometimes increasing their body weight by more than 50%. This provides greater insulation during the winter and a source of energy when food is scarce.
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Reproduction

In the spring, the Arctic fox's attention switches to reproduction and a home for their potential offspring. They live in large dens in frost-free, slightly raised ground. These are complex systems of tunnels covering as much as 1,000 m2 and are often in eskers, long ridges of sedimentary material deposited in formerly glaciated regions. These dens may be in existence for many decades and are used by many generations of foxes.

Arctic foxes tend to select dens that are easily accessible with many entrances, and that are clear from snow and ice making it easier to burrow in. The Arctic fox builds and chooses dens that face southward towards the sun, which makes the den warmer.

Arctic foxes prefer large, maze-like dens for predator evasion and a quick escape especially when red foxes are in the area. Natal dens are typically found in rugged terrain, which may provide more protection for the pups. But, the parents will also relocate litters to nearby dens to avoid predators. When red foxes are not in the region, Arctic foxes will use dens that the red fox previously occupied. Shelter quality is more important to the Arctic fox than the proximity of spring prey to a den.

The white fox's reproduction rates reflect the lemming population density, which cyclically fluctuates every 3–5 years. When lemmings are abundant, the white fox can give birth to 18 pups, but they often do not reproduce when food is scarce. The “coastal fox” or blue fox lives in an environment where food availability is relatively consistent, and they will have up to 5 pups every year.

Breeding usually takes place in April and May, and the gestation period is about 52 days. Litters may contain as many as 25. The young emerge from the den when 3 to 4 weeks old and are weaned by 9 weeks of age.

Arctic foxes are primarily monogamous and both parents will care for the offspring. When predators and prey are abundant, Arctic foxes are more likely to be promiscuous and display more complex social structures. Larger packs of foxes consisting of breeding or non-breeding males or females can guard a single territory more proficiently to increase pup survival.

Food

Arctic foxes generally eat any small animal they can find, including lemmings, voles, other rodents, hares, birds, eggs, fish, and carrion. They scavenge on carcasses left by larger predators such as wolves and polar bears, and in times of scarcity also eat their feces.

In areas where they are present, lemmings are their most common prey, and a family of foxes can eat dozens of lemmings each day. In some locations in northern Canada, a high seasonal abundance of migrating birds that breed in the area may provide an important food source.

On the coast of Iceland and other islands, their diet consists predominantly of birds. During April and May, the Arctic fox also preys on ringed seal pups when the young animals are confined to a snow den and are relatively helpless. They also consume berries and seaweed, so they may be considered omnivores. This fox is a significant bird-egg predator, consuming eggs of all except the largest tundra bird species. When food is overabundant, the Arctic fox buries the surplus as a reserve.

Arctic foxes survive harsh winters and food scarcity by either hoarding food or storing body fat. Fat is deposited subcutaneously and viscerally in Arctic foxes. At the beginning of winter, the foxes have approximately 14740 kJ of energy storage from fat alone.

Migration

During the winter, 95.5% of Arctic foxes utilize commuting trips, which remain within the fox's home range. Commuting trips in Arctic foxes last less than 3 days and occur between 0–2.9 times a month. Nomadism is found in 3.4% of the foxes, and loop migrations are the least common at 1.1%. Arctic foxes in Canada that undergo nomadism and migrations voyage from the Canadian archipelago to Greenland and northwestern Canada. The duration and distance traveled between males and females is not significantly different.

Arctic foxes closer to goose colonies are less likely to migrate. Meanwhile, foxes experiencing low-density lemming populations are more likely to make sea ice trips. Residency is common in the Arctic fox population so that they can maintain their territories. Migratory foxes have a mortality rate >3 times higher than resident foxes. Nomadic behavior becomes more common as the foxes age.

References:

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Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyCanidae
GenusVulpes
SpeciesV. lagopus