Interesting Facts About Arctic Foxes You Didn’t Know Before

Arctic foxes are one of the fox’s main species. This adorable fox is small and has natural adaptations that protect them from predators and cold temperatures. According to scientists, these foxes started 2.6 million years ago in Tibet during the Pliocene Epoch. Then by the migration, they spread to North America and Eurasia. This species is native to Iceland. Continue reading as we discuss some fun facts about arctic foxes throughout. 

Facts About Arctic Foxes

Basics About The Arctic Foxes

The most interesting facts about arctic foxes include their scientific name. Vulpes lagopus is the scientific name for these foxes, the name has an Ancient Greek and Latin root. “Vulpes” means the fox, lagopus comes from the two Ancient Greek words “lagos” which means hare, and “pous” which means foot. The whole word translates to the “hairy-footed fox”.

These foxes are also known as white foxes, snow foxes, and polar foxes. The adult males of these foxes are called dogs and the female adults are called the vixens. Their group is called the skulk or the leash. 

The male foxes are larger than the female foxes. Their sizes are:

GenderAverage SizeAverage HeightAverage Weight
Female20 inches (52 centimeters)9.8 to 11.8 inches (25 to 30 centimeters)3.1 to 7.1 pounds (1.4 to 3.2 kilograms)
Male22 inches (55 centimeters)9.8 to 11.8 inches (25 to 30 centimeters)7.1 to 20.7 pounds (3.2 to 9.4 kilograms)

Behavior

These foxes are one of those animals which are active at any time. They reduce their activities to preserve the insular fat during the winter and autumn seasons. Still, these foxes don’t hibernate. These foxes used to live in families and raise pups during the summer and spring seasons.

These foxes build their dens facing southward to best harness the heat of the Sun. They used to hang out in these dens when they were not hunting or doing any other activity. They sleep outside of their dens during the summer and they slumber inside the dens during the winter.

The arctic foxes are at the top of the list when it comes to building a complex and maximum-protected den. These foxes construct their dens for maximum predator evasion and some of them are as complex that they have more than 100 entrances. They tend to preserve their dens instead of building a new one each year. Talking about the facts about arctic foxes, one of them is that some of their dens are about 100 years old. 

Facts About Arctic Foxes

Habitat

These foxes are mostly found in the Northern Hemisphere’s Arctic Circle. The summer temperature there ranges between -10 and 30 °C (14 and 86 °F) and in the winter the temperature hovers around -34 °C (-30 °F). 

Most of the population of the arctic foxes used to live in the pack-ice areas with their communities scattered through the treeless regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Some Canadian Arctic foxes inhabit the boreal forests which are filled with pines.

To date, scientists have identified four subspecies.

Subspecies LocationArctic Fox Subspecies Scientific Name
Bering Islands Arctic foxV.I. boringness
Greenland Arctic foxV.I. foragoapusis
Iceland Arctic foxV.I. fuliginous
Pribilof Islands Arctic foxV.I. pribilofensis

Arctic Foxes Diet: Prey

The foxes tend to hunt and eat small mammals, the same case is with the arctic foxes. Their choices include voles, hares, lemmings, and small rodents. When their favorite meat is unavailable they tend to chow down on fish, ptarmigan, puffins, ringed seal pups, snow geese eggs, and reindeer. Also, they tend to eat berries and seaweed when things are truly scarce. When they face starvation, they eat their feces.

They use their sharp smell and hearing senses to hunt down their prey. They can hear the lemmings burrowing inches below the ground quite easily. They can hunt several rodents in one day. But they don’t eat all of their hunted meat, they tend to preserve them for the rainy seasons ahead. 

Winter is the season where the Arctic foxes face most of the difficulties. Meat becomes more difficult to find in the winter. They used to stalk the polar bears and eat their scraps during this time. But this one is a risky task because the polar bears are the predators of these foxes and sometimes the polar bears get lucky and the fox itself. 

Facts About Arctic Foxes

Predators and Threats

Their main predators include polar bears, brown bears, wolves, wolverines, red foxes, and humans. The golden eagles, bald eagles, and snowy owls tend to swoop down and snatch the baby fox.  

Climate change and offshore drilling are also becoming the nemesis for these animals. Arctic temperatures are increasing day by day, which is leading to reduced sea ice and rising sea levels.

Their problems aren’t over, the foxes are still plentiful in regions but the other animals’ populations are decreasing, they are dying off which is creating a food shortage for the foxes. Their lighting coats are becoming a liability due to rapidly melting ice. Also, these foxes are losing ground to the larger red foxes.  

The people who are native to the Arctic still have the right to hunt down these foxes for sustenance purposes. But the commercial hunting of these foxes is completely off-limits. 

Adaptations That Keep Arctic Foxes Warm

These foxes are present in two color morphs white and blue throughout the world. 99% of them have the white color morphs, meaning their fur color turns white in winter to blend with ice and turns brown in summer to camouflage with the rocks and cliffs. The 1% of them have the blue color morph meaning rock-blue ice coloring in the winter season and gray-blue in the summer season. These adaptations help them to camouflage and blend into the environment to protect themselves against their predators. 

Both male and female foxes have about 12 inches long tails (brushes). They use their brushes as blankets. This adaptation allows them to survive sub-zero temperatures. These foxes also have fur-covered paws that keep their bodies warm in the winter’s icy cold weather.

Their thick ears, short muzzles, and multilayer coat allow them to survive in the winter’s freezing temperature. They have the warmest fur of any mammal, with their compact body conserving the heat. Also, they can control their paw and core temperature separately which makes them walk comfortably on the ice. These adorable foxes don’t start shivering until the temperature drops down to -70 °C (-94 °F).

Facts About  Foxes

Population

Currently, the numeral hundred thousand of the Arctic foxes are living in the wild. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has declared this species as a least concern on its Red List. 

As we know climate change is rapidly damaging the arctic foxes and their habitat, if things don’t change over the next 10 years, these foxes could become a global warming casualty.

The Scandinavian population is endangered, only 200 individuals are left due to the effects of climate change. This is becoming a serious threat to all animals including the foxes, and this problem has to be solved otherwise many animals have to face extinction. 

Facts About Arctic Foxes

FAQs

Why Are The Arctic Foxes Endangered?

The destruction of their habitat by the humans and the other animals taking over the grounds, also the lack of food is creating many problems for the foxes. They are dying off and could go extinct if it doesn’t stop.

How The Arctic Foxes Protect Themselves Against Their Predators?

These foxes use their color morph to turn their fur color to the environment and they use this adaptation as camouflage to protect themselves against predators.

How Much of the Arctic Foxes have the White Color Morph?

99% of the Arctic foxes have the white color morph which means that they turn the color of their fur to white to camouflage with the help of the ice.

How Much of the Arctic Foxes have the Blue Color Morph?

1% of Arctic foxes have the blue color morph meaning that they can change their fur color to rock-blue.

Are Arctic Foxes Going Extinct?

The number of arctic foxes is pretty much throughout the world suggesting they aren’t going extinct but global warming and other environmental problems can affect their number and can leave them at the edge of extinction. 

What is the Lifespan of the Arctic Fox?

These foxes don’t live for long. Most of them become the prey of the bears at 5 to 6 years of age. In captivity, Arctic foxes can make it to just 10 to 11 years. 

How do Arctic Foxes Survive in the Winter?

These foxes use their unique adaptations such as using their tail as a blanket to survive in the striking cold temperature of the winter.

How Old is the Arctic Fox Species?

This species of the foxes is about 2.6 million years old. 

How Much Temperature Can Arctic Foxes Tolerate?

These foxes can survive in temperatures of -70 °C but below this temperature, their body starts to shiver.