Animal of the Week: the Arctic Fox
By Sara Umbrell, Layout Director
This week’s animal of the week is a fairly well-known animal, and that is the arctic fox! Like the name suggests, this fox lives up north in the Arctic Circle, as well as the northernmost areas of Europe, North America, Greenland, Iceland and even parts of Western Alaska. Arctic foxes are more compact than other foxes, and their legs and snouts tend to be shorter to help them conserve their body heat more efficiently. In the winter, the arctic fox sports a beautiful white coat, while in the spring and summer this coat sheds to a dark gray color so that they can continue to blend in with their surroundings.
The arctic fox is a very opportunistic hunter, meaning they’ll eat almost whatever they can get their paws on whether the prey is dead or alive. Their main prey source consists of mostly small mammals, including but not limited to rodents, lemmings and voles. Embracing their opportunistic hunter title, the arctic fox will also snack on birds, berries, eggs, insects, reptiles and even amphibians. When the weather is warm and the prey source is in abundance, arctic foxes tend to hunt in bulk and store extra prey in their dens to save for the colder winter months when prey will be scarce.
Arctic foxes will usually form monogamous pairs with each other, and they tend to stay within their found territory to raise their pups. Litter sizes vary, ranging from either six to a whopping 19! They leave the den for the first time after about a month and are able to eat solid food two weeks after that. Once they reach nine weeks, they are fully weaned from mom, and they are considered sexually mature at the one year mark. Both mom and dad help care for the pups while they grow up.
The arctic fox’s biggest threat used to be the fur trade for their luxurious coats, but that has since dramatically decreased, and their populations were able to bounce back. Now, their biggest threat is climate change, with warming temperatures melting the arctic ice, reducing their territory and opening it up to competition to red foxes. Despite this, though, they are classified as least concern, and their populations appear to be steady for the moment.