12 Amazing Arctic Fox Facts: They Only Have One Mate For Whole Life

The Arctic fox is an icon of the Arctic Tundra, one of the world’s harshest areas. It is one of the most extraordinary and persistent animals on the planet. These little northern animals are known as the “clowns of the tundra” due to their mischievous and playful personalities. Let’s have a look at some Arctic fox facts below!

Arctic fox
Scientific name: Vulpes lagopus (means “hairy-footed fox)
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora

1. Artic fox’s camouflage ability is amazing

Among many canid species, the Arctic fox is the only one that can change its coat color with the seasons. This ability let them blend so well with their surroundings. In the winter its fur has a white or creamy white color, similar to the snow. In which the snow is not completely white, they develop a grayish coat that matches the color of the snow.

An Artic fox camouflage in the snow

When the summer comes, the Arctic fox loses its white coat in place of a brown coat with a brighter belly. With this coat color, they can blend in with the surrounding rocks and plants.

Arctic foxes change the color of their coat to camouflage to snitch on prey to ambush them and conceal themselves from predators.

Some of the other top camouflage animals related articles:

  1. Vietnamese mossy frog – expert in blending in
  2. Chameleon – catch prey in less than 0.02 seconds
  3. Cuttlefish – king of camouflage
  4. Stonefish – the most dangerous fish
  5. Eastern screech owl

2. They are born to adapt to the cold environments

– Less surface area to lose heat: Arctic foxes have correspondingly shorter necks, short legs, and smaller ears than other fox species. When compared to slimmer southern foxes, the snow fox doesn’t have many surface areas to lose heat.

– Thick fur:

The Arctic fox has a thick and long tail (about 13 inches or 33 centimeters). Their tails support their balance like cats’. Not only that, the tail also plays an important role in keeping them warm. When sleeping, it will curl up and wrap the tail around the face like a blanket to defend it from the cold.

On the paws of snow foxes, there is thick fur. Those furs protect them from snow and ice while also giving traction on slippery surfaces.

– Thick layer of body fat: Arctic foxes retain body fat in order to survive the winter when food is limited. They consume as much as they can in the autumn and summer and those foods will accumulate to form a layer of fat. The fat will be stored to use throughout the winter.

– Arctic fox paws have a system that maintains them at a lower temperature than the body core. This help reduces the heat loss when they touch the ground. Birds’ feet, including ducks and penguins, use similar mechanics.

– The snow fox has the lowest body temperature of any mammal found in the Arctic. In the tundra, they have the best coat, allowing them to survive temperatures as low as -94 °F (-70 °C).

– When food is scarce, Arctic foxes can slow their metabolic rate by 50% while remaining active. This helps them conserve energy.

Facts: Arctic foxes have many nicknames
They are called the white fox, snow fox, or polar fox

3. Artic foxes have great senses

– Excellent hearing:

Arctic foxes’ ears are oriented forward and thus incredibly directional even though they are small. Without seeing, the Arctic fox can accurately catch their main favorite prey – lemmings – by hearing them moving through snow tunnels. Just like that, they jump on the place where the sound is originating from and get the prey.

– Exceptional sense of smell:

Besides the strong sense of hearing, the snow fox can catch animals beneath the snow with its great sense of smell. They can smell the dead animals left by other species, such as polar bears, from a distance of 10 to 40 kilometers. They can also locate polar bears to stay away.

An arctic fox is looking at the camera man

– Arctic foxes have strongly pigmented eyes that shield them from the light of the sun on the snow and ice. They may also have heterochromia, or distinct colored eyes.

Fun Facts
Snow foxes are mostly solitary animals and often lonely wanderers who live in freezing weather. Only during the breeding season can they form permanent couples. They frequently hunt in small groups and can be observed playing with one another.

4. Arctic fox uses “mousing” technique to hunt

Arctic foxes are predators, carnivores, and scavengers that eat lemmings (small rodents), ringed seal infants, ducks, swans, Arctic hares, seabirds, and geese. They dig holes in the ground to store food to keep it fresh.

To hunt, the Arctic fox wanders for hours and tries to listen for lemmings under the snow. In the dark, they use their whiskers to explore through tunnels in search of food. When detecting the lemmings, the fox will move its head back and forth to determine their precise places.

The snow fox will attack when it spots the lemmings. It will jump into the air, sometimes up to 3 feet, and plunge headfirst through the snow onto the prey beneath, with its open mouth. If the fox attack successfully, it will emerge from the snow grasping the rodent. You can see how Arctic foxes hunt in the video below:

A fox family can consume several ten lemmings in one day. They will attack newborn baby ringed seals in the snow den and eat them, just as they do to the lemmings.

Since the prey is not enough in the winter, the snow fox becomes an omnivore. They trace the steps of the Arctic’s top predator, the polar bear, and nibble on leftover scraps. When available, they will eat eggs from tundra nesting birds, eat berries and seaweed. The foxes also forage for food beneath seabird colonies on bluffs. When food is super limited, they even eat their own poop as their diet.

Facts: The population numbers of snow foxes are closely related to the population numbers of its main prey, lemmings. Lemmings can reproduce swiftly in favorable circumstances, but they don’t live long.

5. Arctic foxes play dead to defense

Brown bears, wolves, golden eagles, red foxes, polar bears, and even humans are the predators of Arctic foxes. Among these predators, the red foxes are the major ones to snow foxes because they have invaded the territory where the snow fox once lived. Arctic fox cubs are particularly unsafe to huge birds such as snowy owls. However, the young foxes have their way to protects themselves from those creatures. If a young fox is in threat, it will turn over and pretend to be dead to avoid danger.

Polar bears or red foxes are nothing when compared to humans. We are the most dangerous to snow foxes. We hunt them just for their fur to make coats, and one coat can take up to 20 foxes to produce.

The climate crisis is another greatest threat. Arctic fox habitat is being impacted by rising temperatures. Right now, Arctic foxes are not endangered, however, they might go extinct if global warming continues to increase.

Fun facts: Unique friendship between snow foxes and polar bears
Polar bears usually eat the snow fox. However, there was a recorded example in Canada in which both formed a great connection, played together, and the enormous bear even shared his food with his friend.

6. Arctic foxes live in packs

Arctic foxes are very social creatures. During the summer and spring, they typically live in groups with the family.

They interact with each other by using various sounds, especially during the mating season. They make sounds that are distinct from those of wolves. There are two types of Arctic fox sounds: contact sounds and interaction sounds.

Two snow foxes are playing

It communicates over great distances with loud yowls (contact sounds), while high-pitched yelps (interaction sounds) are employed to alert fellow foxes during a close quarter or unpleasant situation.

Facts: The female adult snow fox is called a vixen, the male is called a dog, and the offspring are called kits. A litter is a bunch of kits born at the same time.

7. Arctic foxes shelter in burrows

A pretty simple and straightforward solution for Arctic foxes to avoid the harsh weather is to dig into the snow and stay there to keep warm. While the temperature within the hole is frozen cold, it still significantly higher than the outside. During the mating season, these foxes spend most of their time within their burrows.

Snow foxes prefer easily accessible dens and burrow in easy-to-dig areas. They also prefer that their homes face the south, toward the sun, which keeps them warm.

Arctic fox dens are complicated tunnels that cover about 1,000 square miles (1,200 square yards) and have up to 150 entrances. Some dens have been used by several foxes generations for nearly 300 years. In a den, you’ll notice a puddle of pee, feces, and leftover kills.

In addition to caves and dens, arctic foxes dig into the sides of cliffs for protection.

Facts: Arctic foxes can swim and cannot climb trees
They float due to the thick coat and swim (although not very fast) up to 2 kilometers between the sea ice and land. Although the snow fox can swim, they try not to swim as much as they can. They only enter the water to avoid predators or migrate.

8. The snow fox’s habitat

Arctic foxes typically dwell in harsh areas where temperatures can drop to -58oF or -14oC. As the name, the fox species only live in the Arctic, you cannot find it in Antarctica or anywhere else with warm climates.

They are most commonly found in the Arctic Tundra, Alaska, Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, Norway, Greenland, and Iceland. It spends the summer on the tundra at the border of the woodland. They migrate long distances across sea ice and land to look for food.

In the winter, you can find the fox on the sea ice because it expands the hunting area. The presence of red foxes influences the southern limit of the arctic fox. In locations where tundra turns to trees and bushes, this fox species outcompetes arctic foxes.

The snow fox is the sole mammal found in Iceland. This means they are the country’s only native mammal. Some believe snow foxes have already come to Iceland on their own, crossing the cold seas of Greenland and Scandinavia.

9. They mate for life

The breeding season of the Arctic fox begins from April to June and they only mate once a year. What makes arctic foxes special is that they are monogamous, which means they mate for life, like geese. After finding a soulmate, the Arctic fox will only mate with its partner for the rest of its life, until one leaves the habitat or dies.

The gestation lasts approximately 52 days and the mom will give a litter of more than 20 pups. This pup number of snow foxes is greater than the other fox species. Arctic foxes are most reproductive when there is plenty of food. They are less likely to reproduce if food is not enough. Females typically have 5–10 young or kits in a litter, but in locations where food is plentiful, they can have up to 25 offspring, the most of any wild mammal.

Both parents take turns caring for their kits. The mother feeds and provides the young foxes heat, while dad defends them from predators. Young non-breeding foxes will occasionally live in the den and assist raise the pups for the next year.

When the pups are nine weeks old, they leave the dens and begin to live their own lives. Young foxes reach complete maturity between the ages of nine and ten months. According to several researchers, just one Arctic pup out of every six survives and reaches maturity. The high death rate of the pups is due to their freezing habitat and their primary predator – snowy owls. However, when they grow older and larger, that threat reduces.

10. The Arctic fox’s lifespan

The normal lifespan of an snow fox in the wild is 3-6 years, however, due to their natural defense system, they can survive up to 10 years. The snow fox can survive for up to 18 years in captivity.

Facts: Arctic foxes can kill you
Most of the time, the snow foxes are not aggressive, in contrast, they are kind of friendly. But if they think you’re a threat, they will attack you. Like Arctic dogs and wolves, Artics foxes can have rabies. Staying close or making contact with these foxes can be dangerous because they can bite you and rabies may be transmitted.

11. They are the smallest wild canid

Arctic foxes are members of the canid family which includes other foxes, dogs, and wolves. It is Canada’s smallest wild canid with the size of a large domestic cat.

Male foxes are larger than female foxes. Males have a head-and-body length of 18 to 27 inches (46 to 68 centimeters), these numbers in females are 16 to 22 inches (41 to 55 centimeters).

Their thick tails, which are roughly 13 inches (30 centimeters ) long, cover 30-35 percent of their overall length. Because of their diminutive size, average adult males have a body weight of 7.1 to 20.7 pounds (3.2 to 9.4 kilograms) while females have a body weight of 3.1 to 7.1 pounds (1.4 to 3.2 kilograms).

12. They travel long distances

A typical Arctic fox will go long distances in search of food. To measure how far can they go, in 2019, people placed a tracking device on a vixen and put it in the eastern section of Spitsbergen, Norway

According to the record, the young vixen traveled 940 miles (1,512 kilometers) crossed Greenland and Norway in 21 days. Before her device broke, it was able to record that the vixen traveled 2,179 miles (3,506 kilometers) in 76 days.


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