With a luxurious white fur coat, the Arctic fox lives in some of the world's most inhospitable environments.
1. Scientific & Common Names
4. Present Status
Scientific & Common Names
Arctic foxes are sometimes called polar foxes, snow foxes, or white foxes. Its scientific name is Alopex lagopus.
Arctic foxes are about the size of a house-cat. Even though they seem small and delicate, they are tough little creatures. To keep warm in harsh Arctic weather, they have thick, fluffy fur. In the winter, their coats are usually pure white. However, in summer, the coat of the Arctic fox may be brown and yellow, silver, or gray. These color changes allow Arctic foxes to blend in with their surroundings whether or not there is snow on the ground. Arctic foxes are 28 to 43 inches long and usually weigh between 3 and 21 pounds. Arctic foxes have dog-like bodies and faces with long, bushy tails and large, erect ears.
Arctic foxes mate in the winter, and the females give birth in early spring after a gestation period of 52 days. Litters range from 6 to 19 pups, and they stay underground in the den until they are about 4 months old. The pups depend on their parents until fall when they are able to strike out on their own.
Arctic foxes eat rabbits and bird eggs, but the food source upon which these creatures are most dependent is the lemming. They are so dependent on lemmings for food that, when lemming populations are low, so are the numbers of Arctic foxes. These foxes live in dens deep underneath the snow. Families re-use dens for generations, so many dens have been used by the same fox bloodlines for hundreds of years.
Because of the superior insulating power of their thick fur coats, the pelts of Arctic foxes have historically been used by indigenous tribes for clothing. At one time, Arctic fox population numbers were threatened by hunting, but as the fur trade has diminished, Arctic fox numbers have rebounded nicely.
In most areas, population numbers of Arctic foxes are stable. However, in some areas of Scandinavia and Russia, only a handful of Arctic foxes remain. Arctic foxes are found in the Arctic tundra, including Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, extreme Northern Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia. The two biggest threats to Arctic foxes are climate change and the invasion of the more aggressive red fox into the Arctic foxes' territory.