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Wildlife of the North: The Arctic Fox

21 May 2020

White fur, white snow. She gently trot’s through the wilderness. You can hardly see her — she has cleverly merged with the background. The black beady eyes and nose are the only things that give her away. She can smell you, but she doesn’t care. She’s hunting. She’s moving lightly along snowdrifts. Then she suddenly stops and looks expectantly into the snow. She’s ready to plunge into it. One moment and her muzzle is borrowing into the cake of ice. Another moment, and you can see her clutching a small lemming in her jaws. She’s going to have a feast today. She’s a natural huntress. She is an arctic fox.

When It’s Time to Meet Her

What is the arctic fox habitat? This white canine is well-adapted to the harsh colds and freezing wastes of the Arctic climate. She has found her home in the Arctic tundra, North America, Siberia, and Scandinavia. This is where she belongs.

The arctic fox appearance is stunning. She is strong, fast, and resourceful. She is an incredible beauty: Nature has endowed the snow fox with beautiful camouflage. Her thick white fur makes her almost invisible to others. 

She is petite and compact—the arctic fox weighs no more than 2,5 or 4 kilos (but it also depends on a particular individual and time of the year). Her head and ears are round, her legs are short, and her paws are small. 

She is also quite a fashionista. Her fur can be of pure-white or bluish colors, and she changes it from season to season. In the winter, the Arctic fox keeps her white fur, while in the summer, her belly and sides turn yellowish, and her back and tail turn brown. She is the only canine that can change the color of her fur. Moreover, it has the best insulating capacity among mammals ever recorded. The arctic fox can easily endure the temperature of -40°C or 104 °F or even as low as -70°C without increasing her metabolism. All these make her a perfect survivor in the frigid weather conditions.

Arctic fox habitat

When It’s Time to Have A Bite

The life in the barren wasteland has proved to be a nasty endeavor for these tiny creatures. Despite the sharp senses that help them easily detect lemmings under the ice, it is difficult to find prey. Miles and miles of ice have almost nothing to offer in terms of food. You can consider it a stroke of pure luck if the arctic fox manages to hunt down a lemming, rodent, bird, or a hare. She couldn’t resist having fatty lemming as it’s her favorite food. 

To feed herself properly, she needs to chase small animals once in a few days. Otherwise, she is destined to wander hundreds of kilometers in search of carcasses left by the larger animals like white bears or wolves. If she fails to scavenge for scraps, then the fox will stay hungry for quite some time. Without slowing down her trot, she’s always on a hunt searching for delicious and juicy morsels.

Arctic Foxes - hunt searching for delicious and juicy morsels

When It’s Time to Save Her Own Fur

She also should be careful as she might fall prey to larger predators — wolverines, bears, eagles, or wolves. But they are not the only ones she needs to stay clear off. Her relative, the red fox, is on her way to exterminate her cousin. The red fox is much larger than the white one, and it is stronger and can easily kill the white one. But even if it doesn’t, the red-head can kick the blondie out from her habitat. 

Such rivalry is because climate change affects weather conditions, and the average temperature rises year by year. Thus, the red fox can easily advance further into the north and pose a threat to the arctic fox. 

Arctic fox's own white fur

When It’s Time For a Little Bit of Love

The arctic fox is a scavenger, a huntress, and mostly lives alone, but she’s also ready to find her mate and spend time with him rising healthy pups. When the right time comes, once a year, usually in April or May, she develops a strong bond with her male friend and gives birth to a litter of thin-furred pups in 55 days. In lucky years, the arctic fox can have from 10 to 16 pups, but usually, she has 6.

The arctic fox is going to live with him in a den and the area filled with small animals, usually, lemmings, which are critical factors for her family’s survival. Breeding for the arctic fox can be a daunting task, as the population of lemmings is unstable — it may occur once every three or four years. A large number of these animals increases the chances of survival for arctic pups. No arctic foxes are born when there are no lemmings at all. 

Arctic fox life

But this little trickster might have some secrets. It’s been long considered that a pair of white foxes form a long-life partnership. But it’s not always true. Sometimes, a male can raise pups, thinking that they are his own when they are not. 

This is the life of a magnificent animal — the arctic fox, which is well-adapted to the permafrost and can survive even if food is scarce. She can survive, live, and give life to the next generations. And if you want to see the arctic fox and other animals, you can embark on a journey to the Arctic with Ragnar.

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