The Arctic Fox
The Arctic Fox - Vulpes lagopus
The beauty of the Arctic Fox
One of the more beautiful creatures I'm unlikely to ever see in the wild, the arctic fox is one well adapted dude. These far northern foxes can tolerate things a Texan can scarcely imagine. Living in the same areas as the very large polar bear, the arctic fox is a natural born survivor of the cold.
We are talking here about an animal that doesn't truly begin to feel the cold until the temperatures are near one hundred degrees Fahrenheit below zero. If you don't begin to get cold until it is one hundred below zero, then one may as well think themselves impervious to the cold. Polar bears, except for pregnant females, do not hibernate at all, and neither do the arctic foxes. The arctic foxes do build elaborate dens, but they remain active at all times in the years.
Speaking of polar bears, the mascot for the far north, the arctic foxes and the polar bears of this world have a bit of an agreement going. Nature abhors a vacuum, and this is law. Polar bears kill lots of seals, but polar bears only eat the fat on the seal, the rest of the seals, including all the muscle or meat - is simply left behind. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so the arctic foxes pick up where the polar bears left off, and eat the rest of the seals. You can imagine they are rather thankful to big brother polar bears.
Arctic fox with a polar bear - these are friends indeed
Arctic fox food, a lot of it comes from polar bear leftovers
Now just because the arctic foxes get some assistance with their diets from massive polar bears, you shouldn't assume they aren't hunters. Arctic foxes are definitely hunters. An arctic fox will eat any small animal it can find to eat.
For the most part, the diet of an arctic fox consists of small rodents like lemmings, voles, hares, birds, eggs, fish, and of course, the polar bear left carrion seals. Living ringed seal pups are often prey, but the arctic fox is an opportunist, just as almost all of us are. To be successful is to have a diverse diet. The arctic foxes are rather successful.
Besides the meat, arctic foxes sometimes consume some seaweeds and berries. For the vegetation consumed the arctic foxes can be considered as omnivores. When there is an abundance of food, the arctic foxes show some wisdom by burying caches of food for later meals.
If you want to talk about hunting, well then, the arctic fox is all ears. The fox's ears are its superpower. The arctic fox can hear into the future - as it can hear a future meal under the snow, dig it out, and make the prophecy of a meal a reality.
An arctic fox with a mouth full of lemming
The coats of the Arctic foxes change color with the seasons
You always think of arctic foxes as being a very pure color white, but this is only true during the Winter. The rest of the year, after the thick thick coat is shed, the arctic foxes are much more brown in color. But how in the world could a mammal live in such extreme cold to begin with? Well, evolution, of course, has adapted the arctic foxes to their environment. Their bodies are shaped to where heat doesn't escape from them. Their fur coat is multi-layered, and then there is the countercurrent heat exchange. Insofar as the arctic foxes go, the countercurrent heat exchange is within the circulatory system, as parallel veins flowing in opposite directions conserve the heat already within the arctic fox's body. The fox also has a rather generous supply of fat.
The arctic foxes certainly know when Winter is coming, and like bears will do, they gorge themselves in preparation for the extreme weather. They eat so much in the Fall the often increase their body weight by nearly half. Wouldn't it be nice if you and I could both know when times are going to get tough like the arctic foxes do?
An arctic fox and its den
Dens, mating, and litters
There is a hell of a lot more to the arctic fox's den than meets the eye. The den is no mere hole in the ground, but a large and elaborate system of tunnels with multiple entrances or exits. The arctic fox's den may stretch an incredible twelve hundred yards. The den is also a home passed down over many generations, and may have been in existence several decades. There is wisdom to be had from the fox in this too.
Of course the young foxes are raised, fed, and protected in the large and elaborate dens. Like wolves will do, foxes who are not the parents of the young foxes will often assist in caring for them. Survival in such harsh conditions requires cooperation.
Arctic foxes form monogamous pairs. Breeding takes place in the Spring, and then about fifty two days later, fox pups are born. Out of all the animals in the order Carnivora - the arctic foxes have the largest litters of pups. Once upon a time a litter of twenty five fox pups was recorded!
Arctic fox pup
A red fox -Vulpes vulpes, NOT an arctic fox
The Arctic foxes are true foxes, indeed
There is very very little difference in size between the male and female arctic foxes.The male arctic foxes are only ever a little bit larger than the females. The arctic foxes stand between nine inches and one foot tall from the ground. They are usually around twenty inches in length with a one foot long tail, and weigh between three to twenty pounds. Now remember, the arctic foxes usually double their weight each year just prior to Winter. By the end of Winter, their weight has been reduced.
Arctic foxes are Vulpini, or true foxes. Foxes are definitely Canids, and so fall into the Carnivora order despite being, as many other Genus and species of Carnivora, omnivores. There are four subspecies of arctic foxes, and all arctic foxes are found in the Northern hemisphere in the arctic regions. This covers a lot of land mass, these places the arctic foxes live, and so there are isolated populations who've been isolated for a very long time - time enough to develop into distinct sub-species. Consider Iceland, that cold island nation; the arctic fox is the only mammal native to the place.
There are only two groups of arctic foxes endangered at all,the ones living in Scandinavia, and a small population on Medny Island in Russia. This threatening situation is in spite of the fact these foxes are protected by law in those regions. We've got to do away with the trapping of the arctic foxes in order to prevent continued decline. Refusing to purchase products of arctic fox fur would be a grand and effective way to do this.
Human hunting and trapping are not the only threat to arctic foxes. Climate change, whether man made, or not - threatens the arctic foxes. You see, the camouflage white color only aids the foxes in the snow cover, and as Northern regions are warming, the larger red foxes are encroaching on their arctic kinfolk's territory. This is entirely natural, especially should you be the type who realizes climate is forever changing, regardless or in spite of humankind's affairs. Additional threats come from anything which reduces the populations of lemmings and voles, or migratory birds which arctic foxes use to sustain their beautiful selves with. Thanks for reading.