Arctic Fox Facts For Kids
When you think of the animals living in the northern hemisphere, you cannot skip the Arctic fox. They are the true animals of the north who live their whole life in the Arctic Tundra region. They are also known as the white fox or snow fox. These foxes are animals with thick fur and very fluffy tails.
What do Arctic Foxes look like?
Arctic foxes are smaller compared to other foxes. They have short and stubby legs and curled back ears. They also have tiny, short snouts. Their tail is very bushy, and they have thick fur. The foxes have a unique characteristic about their fur. They would appear with snow-white fur in one season. In the following season, you would see them with brown fur.
These animals also have fur on their paw pads. This ensures the paws are warm and that the foxes don’t end up slipping and falling on the ice. These features help them bear the cold and cut the loss of heat.
The Arctic Fox measures around three feet long. They weigh anywhere between five and fifteen pounds. Males are generally larger than females. But in some regions, there is no noticeable difference in size between both genders.
Arctic Fox Habitat
As the name suggests, Arctic Foxes are found in the Arctic and alpine tundras. These foxes are found only in the Arctic region of the Northern Hemisphere, so don’t confuse them with being found in Antarctica. They are spread throughout the northern areas of North America, Greenland, Iceland, Asia, and Europe.
Arctic foxes live in different places in different seasons. The harsh climatic conditions of the Arctic make it difficult for lush to grow. Thus, during the summer, the foxes stay at the edge of the tundra forests. During the winter, they live on the ice floes. Ice floes are large floating pieces of ice.
Arctic Fox Dens-
The Arctic Fox make a den for themselves as their homes. They dig through the ground or snow to make a den. The burrows are usually dug very deep beneath the surface. They do this so that the fox can keep itself warm from the chilly cold. Another reason is in the worst-case scenario where the fox is unable to find food.
The den has many entrances. Many generations of foxes use it as their home. The foxes change their dens many times during the year. This is because they move a lot to find food.
What do Arctic Foxes Eat?
These animals are not picky eaters. You can call them opportunist eaters. The prey these foxes love is lemmings. They feed on thousands of these rodents in a year. Hares, seal pups, and birds come to a close second as food. Since food is scarce, these carnivores even feed on fish, eggs, insects, and even berries.
Arctic foxes eat about anything. Their unique color-changing fur helps them camouflage and sneakily hunt the prey. Their hearing is so sharp that they can even detect movement under the snow. Once they lock onto a target, they jump straight high in the air and pounce on top of the prey.
In desperate times when they absolutely cannot find food, they follow polar bears and wolves. They wait till the larger predator makes a kill and then eat the leftovers.
How long do they live?
Arctic foxes live up to three to six years in the wild. There have been exceptional cases where they could be found living for eleven years. Many foxes do not survive the first year after their birth. This is because they are prey to large animals like polar bears, wolves, red foxes, and eagles. Starvation and commercial hunting by humans also reduce their lifespan.
Arctic Fox Species and Classification
Arctic Fox belongs to the Kingdom Animalia and the class Mammalia. They are part of the order Carnivora and the family Canidae. Classified under the genus Vulpes, Arctic Foxes are scientifically called Vulpes Lagopus.
Other than the common Arctic fox, there are four subspecies of Arctic foxes present-
- Iceland Arctic fox
- Greenland Arctic fox
- Bering Islands Arctic fox
- Pribilof Islands Arctic fox
Arctic Fox Behaviour and Characteristics
Arctic foxes are nomadic animals. They move around in search of food and when the climate takes a turn. They use their long and thick tails to keep themselves cozy and warm in their dens. They are active animals at any time of the day.
Arctic foxes are solitary creatures most of their life until they find a mate. They remain faithful to one mate for the rest of their life. They form monogamous pairs and raise their young ones together. Even though there may be other females in the pack, the male will not breed with anyone other than his mate.
Hiding Food for the Winter
The dens that the foxes build serve another purpose too. During the summer and spring seasons, they try to hunt down as much prey as they can. This is so they can store the food for winter when it is scarce. They burrow into a small space and hide the excess food underground for the future.
Hibernation in the Winter
Arctic foxes are animals that do not hibernate. They are active animals for most of the time. But, during winters, if the food supply ceases or does not find prey, they stay inside their dens for short periods. Their short features allow them to compact their bodies to conserve heat. This helps them stay warm and preserve energy.
Sense of Smell
These foxes have a very keen sense of smell and hearing. They can sniff out their prey a mile away and listen to the burrowing of the rodents. They also sense movement in the snow and frozen animals. They also smell the carcass left by larger animals from a far distance. This is why they can follow them without getting caught.
Foxes live alone till they find a mate and start a pack. They live solitary lives in the summer and form a small group during winters. The pack consists of a male, one or two females, and their litter. Only one of the females reproduces.
Arctic Fox Adaptations
Arctic foxes present themselves in two colors. Most foxes have white fur to blend into the snow and brown fur to blend in summer. The foxes who live in coastal regions have bluish coloring in the winters and gray-blue fur in the summers.
This shedding of furs in different seasons allows them to camouflage. The color change helps them blend into the environment and steer clear of the predators.
How do Foxes Adapt to Winter Weather
Arctic foxes have special features designed to survive the freezing climate of the Tundra region. Their tail measures 12 inches and balances their body temperatures. Their ability to walk for long in the cold is because they can control the temperature of their paws and body separately.
Arctic Fox Life Cycle and Breeding
Arctic foxes breed during the spring and give birth when it is still warm. The breeding period is usually from April to July. The gestation lasts for about 52 days. The female gives birth to litters that consist of 6 to 14 young pups on average. The size of the litter depends on the availability of food. The female takes care of the litter while the male hunts for food. Both parents are heavily involved in the parenting process.
Baby Arctic Fox
The baby Arctic Foxes are born blind and with dark fur. They are called kits. They depend entirely on their parents for the first one and half months. The kits wean by the fourth week and emerge out of the den as well. They reach sexual maturity by the end of one year and leave the pack too.
Are Arctic Foxes Endangered?
Arctic foxes are placed under the least concerned species in being endangered. There are several thousands of these foxes being scattered around the Arctic. However, we cannot say the same in the case of the Scandinavian foxes. They were found to be an endangered species with a mere number of less than 200.
Interesting Facts about Arctic Foxes
- Arctic foxes have the warmest fur among mammals.
- They have strong pigmented eyes which can result in different eye colors.
- A den can have over 100 entrances so complex that you will find yourself in a maze!
- Arctic foxes are also called Lagopus, meaning ‘rabbit footed’ due to their paws.