- Arctic Fox
name = Arctic FoxMSW3 Wozencraft | pages = |id=14000873 ]
status = LC
status_system = iucn2.3
status_ref = IUCN2007 | assessors = Angerbjörn, A., Hersteinsson , P. & Tannerfeldt, M. | year = 2004 | title = Alopex lagopus | id = 899 | downloaded =
trend = stable
phylum = Chordata
genus = "
species = "V. lagopus"
binomial = "Vulpes lagopus"
binomial_authority = (Linnaeus, 1758)
range_map_caption = Arctic Fox rangeThe Arctic Fox ("Vulpes lagopus"), also known as the White Fox or Snow Fox, is a small
foxnative to cold Arcticregions of the Northern Hemisphereand is common in throughout the Arctic tundra biome. Although it is often assigned to its own genus"Alopex", the definitive mammal taxonomy list, as well as genetic evidence places it in " Vulpes" with the majority of the other foxes. cite journal|title=Building large trees by combining phylogenetic information: a complete phylogeny of the extant Carnivora (Mammalia)|journal=Biol. Rev.|date=1999|first=ORP|last=Bininda-Emonds|coauthors=JL Gittleman, A Purvis|volume=74|issue=|pages=143-175|id= |url=http://www.daimi.au.dk/~cmosses/thesis/articles/Bininda_Emonds_Carnivora.pdf|format=PDF|accessdate=2008-07-30 ]
The Arctic Fox has evolved to live in the most frigid extremes on the planet.fact|date=June 2008 Among its
adaptations for cold survival are its deep, thick fur, a system of countercurrent heat exchange in the circulation of paws to retain core temperature, and a good supply of body fat. The fox has a low surface area to volume ratio, as evidenced by its generally rounded body shape, short muzzle and legs, and short, thick ears. Since less of its surface area is exposed to the cold, less heat escapes the body. Its furry paws allow it to walk on ice in search of food. The Arctic Fox has such keen hearing that it can precisely locate the position of prey under the snow. When it finds prey, it pounces and punches through the snow above to catch its victim. Its thick fur is the warmest of any mammal.Fact|date=April 2008 Another feature of its fur is how it changes colour with the seasons. In the winter it is a white to blend in with snow, while in the summer months its fur changes to a brown. [http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/snp/Animals/arctic_fox.htm]
The Arctic Fox tends to be active in early September to early May. The
gestation periodis 52 days. Litters tend to average 6-7 pups but may be as many as 11. [ [http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Vulpes_lagopus.html ADW: Vulpes lagopus: Information ] ] Both the mother and the father help to raise their young. The females leave the family and form their own groups and the males stay with the family.
Foxes tend to form monogamous pairs in the breeding season. Litters of between 4 and 11 kits are born in the early summer. The parents raise the young in a large den. Dens can be complex underground networks, housing many generations of foxes. Young from a previous year's litter may stay with the parents to help rear younger siblings.The cubs are brownish and as they get older they are white.They can walk on ice without freezing because they have thick hair on their paws.
The Arctic Fox will generally eat any meat it can find, including
lemmings, Arctic Hare, reptiles and amphibians, eggs, and carrion. Lemmings are the most common prey. A family of foxes can eat dozens of lemmings each day. During April and May the Arctic Fox also preys on Ringed Sealpups when the young animals are confined to a snow den and are relatively helpless. Fish beneath the ice are also part of its diet. When its normal prey is scarce, the Arctic Fox scavenges the leftovers of larger predators, such as the polar bear, even though the bears' prey includes the Arctic Fox itself.
The length of the head and body is convert|55|cm|abbr=on|1 in the male and convert|53|cm|abbr=on|1 in the female. The tail is convert|31|cm|abbr=on|1 long in the male and convert|30|cm|abbr=on|1 long in the female. It is convert|25|-|30|cm|abbr=on|1 high at the shoulder. Males weigh convert|9|lb|abbr=on|1 while females can weigh convert|6|to|12|lb|abbr=on|1.
Besides the nominate, there are three
subspeciesof this fox:
*Bering Islands Arctic Fox, "
Vulpes lagopus beringensis"
*Iceland Arctic Fox, "
Vulpes lagopus fuliginosus"
*Pribilof Islands Arctic Fox, "
Vulpes lagopus pribilofensis"
Population and Distribution
The Arctic Fox has a circumpolar range, meaning that it is found throughout the entire Arctic, including the outer edges of Greenland,
Russia, Canada, Alaska, and Svalbard, as well as in Subarcticand alpine areas, such as Icelandand mainland alpine Scandinavia. The conservation status of the species is good, except for the Scandinavian mainland population. It is acutely endangered there, despite decades of legal protection from hunting and persecution. The total population estimate in all of Norway, Swedenand Finlandis a mere 120 adult individuals.
The Arctic Fox is the only native land mammal to Iceland. It came to the isolated North Atlantic island at the end of the last
ice age, walking over the frozen sea.
The abundance of the Arctic Fox species tends to fluctuate in a cycle along with the population of lemmings. Because the fox reproduces very quickly and often dies young, population levels are not seriously impacted by trapping. The Arctic Fox has, nonetheless, been eradicated from many areas where humans are settled.
The Arctic Fox is losing ground to the larger
Red Fox. Historically, the Gray Wolfhas kept Red Fox numbers down, but as the wolf has been hunted to near extinctionin much of its former range, the Red Fox population has grown larger, and it has taken over the niche of top predator. In areas of northern Europethere are programs in place that allow hunting of the Red Fox in the Arctic Fox's previous range.
As with many other game species, the best sources of historical and large scale population data are hunting bag records and questionnaires. There are several potential sources of error in such data collections.cite book | author = Garrott and Eberhardt | year = 1987 | chapter = Arctic fox | editor = Novak, M. et al. (eds.) | title = Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America | pages = pp. 395-406] In addition, numbers vary widely between years due to the large population fluctuations. However, the total population of the Arctic Fox must be in the order of several hundred thousand animals.cite book | author = Tannerfeldt, M. | year = 1997 | title = Population fluctuations and life history consequences in the Arctic fox. | publisher = Dissertation, Stockholm University | location = Stockholm, Sweden]
The world population is thus not endangered, but two Arctic Fox subpopulations are. One is on
Medny Island( Commander Islands, Russia), which was reduced by some 85-90%, to around 90 animals, as a result of mange caused by an ear tick introduced by dogs in the 1970s.cite journal | author = Goltsman et al. | year = 1996 | title = The Mednyi Arctic foxes: treating a population imperilled by disease | journal = Oryx | volume = 30 | pages = 251–258] The population is currently under treatment with antiparasitic drugs, but the result is still uncertain.
The other threatened population is the one in
Fennoscandia(Norway, Sweden, Finland and Kola Peninsula). This population decreased drastically around the start of the 20th century as a result of extreme fur prices which caused severe hunting also during population lows.cite book | author = Lönnberg, E. | year = 1927 | title = Fjällrävsstammen i Sverige 1926 | publisher = Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences | location = Uppsala, Sweden] The population has remained at a low density for more than 90 years, with additional reductions during the last decade.cite journal | author = Angerbjörn, A. et al. | year = 1995 | title = Dynamics of the Arctic fox population in Sweden | journal = Annales Zoologici Fennici | volume = 32 | pages = 55–68] The total population estimate for 1997 is around 60 adults in Sweden, 11 adults in Finland and 50 in Norway. From Kola, there are indications of a similar situation, suggesting a population of around 20 adults. The Fennoscandian population thus numbers a total of 140 breeding adults. Even after local lemming peaks, the Arctic Fox population tends to collapse back to levels dangerously close to non-viability.
* Nowak, Ronald M. (2005). "Walker's Carnivores of the World". Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. ISBN 0-8018-8032-7
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