They’re white, they’re fluffy, and they’re built to withstand the harsh temperatures, treeless lands, and snowy terrains, that they call their home. These cute little fur-balls are brave and cunning but what else is there to know about these little bundles? Keep on reading to learn 20 facts about the Arctic Fox.
Fact 1: The Arctic Fox is a small fox that is native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
- They are also known as the ‘white Fox’, ‘polar Fox’, or ‘snow Fox’ and are common throughout the Arctic tundra biome.
Fact 2: Fully grown adult Arctic Foxes can reach about 50–60 cm in length.
- They can weigh about 3–8 kg.
- Interestingly, as an adaptation to the climate that they live in, Arctic Foxes have short rounded ears, a short muzzle, and fur-covered soles.
Fact 3: During the summer months, an Arctic Fox will prey primarily on rodents, such as lemmings, to survive.
- In contrast, during the winter months, the Arctic Fox hunts birds such as ptarmigan, grouse, and puffins, and even reindeer, in addition to rodents.
- The Arctic Fox has also been known to prey on much larger carnivores too, such as polar bears, and wolves.
Fact 4: During the mating season, Arctic Foxes form monogamous pairs, and they stay together in these pairs to raise their young offspring in complex underground dens.
- Occasionally, other family members may assist in raising the young Arctic Foxes as natural predators are a big issue for young and small Arctic Foxes. Golden eagles, polar bears, wolves, and grizzly bears are just some of these predators.
Fact 5: Female Arctic Foxes usually breed once a year, and they usually produce a litter of up to 20 dark-furred pups.
- The pups are born between April and June after a gestation period of about 52 days. The pups leave their underground den to live on their own during the months of September/October of the same year.
Fact 6: Young Arctic Foxes become sexually mature at about 9–10 months of age.
- This can be attributed to their short life expectancy in the wild. In the wild, their life expectancy is only about 3 years but they can live for up to 10 years in zoos.
Fact 7: They are hunted by native Arctic people for their fur.
- Fortunately, worldwide, the population of the Arctic Fox is thought to be several hundred thousand, and thus the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the Arctic Fox as a species of least concern.
Fact 8: They live in one of the harshest environments in the world.
- Interestingly, they do not start to shiver until the temperature drops to −70°C or below.
- Their thick, multilayered pelage, and covered fur pads, give them enough insulation to endure the harsh Arctic cold weather.
Fact 9: Arctic Foxes have two genetically distinct coat colors: White and Blue.
- The white morph has seasonal camouflage, white in winter and brown along the back with light grey around the abdomen for the summer.
- The blue morph is often a dark blue, brown, or grey color all year-round.
Fact 10: They have a keen sense of hearing.
- The Arctic Fox has a functional hearing range between 125 Hz–16 kHz, although their hearing is less sensitive than that of dogs and the kit Fox.
Fact 11: It’s the only land mammal native to Iceland.
- It wasn’t until the end of the last ice age when the Arctic Fox came to the isolated North Atlantic island, walking over the frozen sea. The Arctic Fox Center in Súðavík contains an exhibition on the Arctic Fox and conducts studies on the influence of tourism on the population.
Fact 12: Arctic Foxes live in family groups during the springtime and summertime.
- An adult male is called a ‘dog’, and an adult female is called a ‘vixen’. Babies are called ‘kits’, and a group of babies born at the same time is called a ‘litter’.
Fact 13: They dive headfirst into the snow when they’re searching for food that’s buried deep in the snow!
- When hunting, the Arctic Fox stalks the snow in search of a noise from an animal that is below the snowy surface. When the Arctic Fox hears a sound it tends to break into the layers of snow by jumping high in the air and diving headfirst into the snow, it can do so repeatedly until it finds its food.
Fact 14: A small Fox is roughly the size of a chihuahua.
- But as it reaches maturity, it can be as large as a Jack Russell terrier.
Fact 15: The short supply of prey, global warming, and Red Foxes being dominant are the most prevalent threats for the Arctic Fox.
- The Arctic Fox was also impacted tremendously by the fur trade because of its extremely high-quality pelt. It’s still hunted for its fur, particularly by native populations who live in close proximity to them. The fur trade has decreased dramatically and the Arctic Fox is not as vulnerable to overexploitation as it once was.
Fact 16: They’re losing ground to the larger Red Fox.
- This has been attributed to climate change. The camouflage value of its lighter coat decreases with less snow cover.
Fact 17: Compared to Red Foxes, Arctic Foxes have small ears.
- The Red Fox has large ears because they mainly live in higher temperature climates so they don’t lose heat quickly, whereas Arctic Foxes need to stay warm, so they have smaller ears to ensure heat won’t escape as quickly.
Fact 18: Arctic Foxes do not howl.
- Like other foxes, they do bark, hiss, and scream.
Fact 19: They have poor eyesight.
- Arctic Foxes have poor eyesight because their eyes have adapted to lose a great deal of pigment that comes off the harsh arctic sun.
- The sun reflects heavily off the snow and this will cause serious eyesight problems for anyone after long exposure.
Fact 20: New Zealand isn’t quite a fan of these tiny, furry creatures.
- The Arctic Fox is a “prohibited new organism” according to New Zealand’s Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. While you may be able to befriend an Arctic Fox if you live in the Arctic, the creatures are unwelcome in the Southern Hemisphere because they would upset the ecology.