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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Did You Know? Arctic Fox Facts

Arctic fox facts like it wraps its tail around the body to keep itself warm while sleeping are interesting.

Polar bears may be the main attraction for travelers and wildlife photographers in the Arctic but the Arctic fox is also a popular animal among the guests. They live above the tree line in the Arctic tundra. Other names for Arctic fox are snow fox, white fox, and polar fox, due to their white winter coat and snowy habitat. The Arctic fox is a small fox that originates from the Arctic regions in the Northern Hemisphere. The Arctic tundra biome is its ideal habitat.

This furry animal can tolerate freezing temperatures and is equipped with physiological adaptation features to survive in its frigid native land. The funny part about this fox is it has a white coat in winter which changes to brown in summer. The changing Arctic fox colors are a camouflage mechanism for survival and hunting prey. The Arctic fox habitat is both land and sea ice in the Arctic where the sun does not rise for almost six months (October to February).

Arctic fox adaptations are many. The thick fur on the body and feet helps the Arctic fox survive in the icy Arctic. Their layer of dense fur coat maintains a body temperature of almost 104°F. The animal’s bushy, fluffy tail works like a blanket when they sleep. The Arctic fox wraps its tail around its body while sleeping to maintain warmth.

Read on for more interesting facts. You may also check out the fact files on the Arctic hare and tundra wolf from Kidadl.

Arctic Fox Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Arctic fox?

As the name explains, Arctic foxes are foxes that live in the Arctic tundra. The arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus, is among the iconic animals living in the freezing biome with a pure white coat to camouflage them. The special arctic fox adaptations make it possible for these animals to survive in subzero temperatures.

What class of animal does an Arctic fox belong to?

The Arctic fox is a mammal.

How many Arctic foxes are there in the world?

Although it is difficult to give the exact number of Arctic foxes in the world, it is believed that their global population adds to several hundred thousand. A steep decline in Arctic fox numbers was noted in the Scandinavian countries in the 1980s and 1990s. With global warming, the concern for the survival of the Arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus, becomes even more critical. As the ice melts, the boreal forests are increasing in the northward direction. The Arctic foxes are losing their natural habitat, leading to a reduced population.

Where does an Arctic fox live?

Arctic foxes live in the Arctic and alpine tundra. They live north of the tree line, on ice floes, floating ice, or sea ice, and the icy coasts. The Arctic foxes typically build their dens in low mounds in the open tundra, foot of cliffs, or a stack of rock in the open that are 3.3-13 ft high. Parts of the Arctic Tundra like Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, and Russia are inhabited by the Arctic fox.

What is an Arctic fox's habitat?

The freezing temperatures of the arctic region are the ideal habitat for the Arctic fox. They travel thousands of miles following polar bears to scavenge on the polar bears’ prey. You can find this fox arctic species on the sea ice of the North Pole up to an elevation of more than 9700 ft. Arctic foxes are usually seen in the coastal areas of the alpine or the treeless coastal tundra regions.

You will find these amazing fox arctic species in their range that covers the northernmost regions of Greenland, North America, Asia, and Europe. They thrive in temperatures as low as -58˚F in Alaska, Canada, Norway, Russia, and Iceland. The harsh weather does not stop these foxes from hunting and scavenging on the sea ice. Burrows of Arctic foxes are often passed down through generations over hundreds of years. Though the global Arctic fox population is now considered as several hundred thousand animals, the numbers fluctuate between years depending on the availability of lemmings in the wild.

Who do Arctic foxes live with?

Arctic foxes are social animals. They may travel alone for long distances looking for food and lead a nomadic life. Mostly they scavenge in small groups and live within a community. During the summer months, these foxes usually live in family groups. The family is typically made of one male, two females, and their pups. The unique part about the family is that only one female mates and gives birth to the pups and the other one looks after them. The other female is generally from the previous litter.

How long does an Arctic fox live?

Arctic foxes can live for three to four years when in their natural habitat in the wild and up to 14 years in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

Arctic foxes reach their reproductive maturity when they are 10 months old. These animals are monogamous meaning they mate with only one partner. The usual breeding season is April and May. Arctic fox couples make new dens or move to their ancestral ones to give birth to the pups. An Arctic fox’s gestation period lasts from 49-57 days. Some Arctic fox litters can be as large as 25 kits. After that, the female fox gives birth to litters of 5-10 kits or pups.

Their dens are quite interesting and have interconnecting tunnels. At times these dens cover an area of 3,280 square ft of long tunnels. While the two females raise the pups, the males look for food and protect the den from predators like the polar bear. Arctic foxes are born deaf, blind, and toothless. They weigh just 0.12 lb. Both the parents take turns in looking after the pups. The pups are ready to venture out of their den once they are about one month old. The pups are weaned off mother’s milk when they are a month and a half old. Thereafter they start eating meat.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of Arctic foxes is Least Concern. However, due to climate change, surface temperatures are rising globally. The rapid increase in the average Arctic temperatures is causing depletion of sea ice and is melting the permafrost. The rise in sea level and the shrinking sea ice is causing alterations in the Arctic fox habitat. This also impacts the availability of prey and increases competition with the stronger rivals, the red foxes. The territories are now overlapping in many regions making survival difficult for the Arctic foxes.

The Arctic fox is not safe even in its snowy habitat. It has predators like the red fox, polar bears, wolverines, and golden eagles. The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) once faced the threat of extinction as they were mercilessly trapped for their fur for making fashionable and expensive winter coats. A hunting ban on Arctic foxes has helped the breed to recover. Now the Arctic fox population is considered to be stable, although the same foxes are considered Critically Endangered in Finland, and the Scandinavian countries of Norway, and Sweden.

Arctic Fox Fun Facts

What do Arctic foxes look like?

Arctic foxes are adapted to survive in severely cold, harsh conditions. Arctic fox adaptations like their warm thick fur, round compact body, short legs and ears, and small muzzle are all built for purpose. The compact body helps them to decrease the surface area exposed to the cold and maintain their body temperatures and minimize heat loss. The bottom of the feet is also padded with fur to keep the animal safe from slipping on the ice. The Arctic fox’s white fur in winter helps them to camouflage in the snow. In summer, the thick fur of the foxes living on the rocky coastal shores turns brown or gray.

The Arctic fox lives in the Arctic and the Alpine tundra.

How cute are they?

Arctic foxes appear cute and fluffy with their snow-white fur.

How do they communicate?

Arctic foxes use howls, barks, and high-pitched sounds to communicate. They have incredible auditory senses and can listen to sounds from great distances. They can even hear their prey under the snow. They locate, leap, and grab the prey from the snow-covered ground.

How big is an Arctic fox?

Arctic foxes weigh 3-20 lb compared to the world’s largest wolf; the Mackenzie Valley wolf which weighs 110-175 lb. That’s 33 times heavier than the Arctic fox.

How fast can an Arctic fox run?

Arctic foxes can run at a speed of up to 31 mph when required. They usually run in short sprints.

How much does an Arctic fox weigh?

Arctic foxes weigh from 6.5-17 lb.

What are their male and female names of the species?

A male Arctic fox is called dog, tog, or a Reynard. A female Arctic fox is called a vixen.

What would you call a baby Arctic fox?

Baby arctic foxes are called kits, cubs, or pups.

What do they eat?

These animals walk long distances every day searching for food. The hostile environment of the tundra region has made these animals a variety-eater. Most of the Arctic fox diet includes hare, birds, voles, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, insects, eggs, but lemmings are their favorite. They eat meat as well as berries in summer when prey is scarce. When there’s a shortage of prey, these animals turn omnivores. They are opportunistic feeders and also scavenge on the leftover foods of polar bears and wolves.

Are they aggressive?

Arctic foxes can be aggressive while protecting their pups.

Would they make a good pet?

The Arctic foxes are wild animals that are usually not kept as a pet. Keeping an Arctic fox pet would mean housing a smelly animal, as well as removing it from its preferred Arctic environment.

Did you know...

Arctic foxes may be potential rabies carriers. Bites of these animals can be dangerous to humans.

The Silver fox is a tamed breed of Arctic fox. They have been bred with the red fox to create a fox variety called the Arctic marble fox that can be kept as pets. An Arctic marble fox image is similar to an Arctic fox drawing with gray or brown furry patches over the eyes, ears, tail, and body.

Why is the Arctic fox endangered?

The populations of Arctic foxes are directly connected to the populations of lemmings. Food shortage, disease, loss of habitat has forced the Arctic fox population to almost disappear in some areas.

Do Arctic foxes mate for life?

Arctic foxes are monogamous. So, yes, they form pairs for life.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including the fennec fox, or bat-eared fox.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Arctic fox coloring pages.

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