Standing at just over one foot tall, the arctic fox is a small mammal. They may be small in size, but they have got excellent survival skills.

It is a remarkably bold animal, and it has adapted well to the Arctic Tundra, a home where Arctic foxes live. 

Arctic foxes can be found in Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland, Iceland, and many other Arctic regions. The capacity to adapt to such extreme geographical and weather conditions is fascinating facts about arctic fox.

Arctic Fox

According to The Science Views, The Arctic Fox also has Greek and Latin names. The Greek word Alopex lagopus means “fox,” while the Latin name Vulpes Lagopus means “hair on feet,” Referring to the hair found on its paw pads.

Arctic foxes are of the class “Mammalia” and order “Carnivora.” They fall under the family “Canidea,” genus “Alopex.” They are native of Iceland and are under species “Lagopus,” and sub-species “Bering Iceland.”

Arctic foxes grow to an average of three feet long plus an additional 12 inches for their tail at their shoulder. They stand an average of 11 inches tall and weigh around four kilograms. 

The arctic fox is a nomadic creature that keeps moving from place to place, looking for food. When the summer arrives, they live in a group made of a male, one or two females, and the kits. 

The Arctic fox has small ears, muzzles, and short legs, all essential adaptations to survive the arctic region’s coldest climate. 

Arctic foxes don’t live long, their lifespan depends on the predators. Mostly three to six years adult are hunted by predators, but they can make up to ten or eleven in captivity. 

Arctic fox’s thick tails are around 13 inches long and are used mostly to aid balance, as they can be used as a shelter against the cold. 

Arctic foxes are one of the smallest mammals under the family “Canidae.” They change their fur according to the season, which helps them hunt rodents, birds, and even fish.

Arctic Fox Facts

This mammal has many surprising facts and figures from their adaptations to lifestyle. People frequently wonder how something so small persists in the sub-zero temperatures, but arctic foxes have adapted to their environment surprisingly well. 

facts about arctic fox

Let us learn more fascinating facts about arctic fox.  

1. Same family as dogs

Arctic foxes fall under the Canidae family of animals. Along with the domesticated dogs, coyotes, foxes, and wolves, they fall into the sub-group of canines.

The fox does seem to share some features and behavior with the dogs. The foxes evolved differently from dogs millions of years ago because of events and terrestrial locations, and the nocturnal hunting habits of a fox.

2. Arctic foxes don’t hibernate 

Unlike some other mammals living in cold environments, the arctic fox doesn’t hibernate in the winter. Arctic foxes are active throughout the year. 

Extreme weather conditions and an environment with limited food resources don’t stop these hardy little animals. 

Under its fur, the arctic fox has a lot of body fat, which keeps it insulated in the cold. In the autumn, the arctic foxes increase their fat reserves to provide energy and insulation through the winter. 

The Arctic fox has fur present on the paws, which lessens heat loss and permits them to walk better on ice. The resistibility and adaptation of the climatic changes are interesting facts about arctic fox.

3. Arctic fox adapts well in a cold environment

The Arctic Tundra temperatures average -18 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 37 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. It’s no surprise that the Arctic fox has adapted living and functioning in freezing weather.

facts about arctic fox
source: Jonatan Pie

 The adaptation to the drastically changing surroundings can be considered one of the major facts about arctic fox. The arctic fox has a dense, multilayered fur coat that provides excellent insulation against the cold. 

4. Camouflage 

These facts about arctic fox are unique and surprising. The arctic fox’s fur varies in color depending on the environment and time of the year. In summer, individuals who inhabit snow-covered areas are white, while those who live on rocky shores are brown.

Arctic foxes change the color of their fur depending on the season, creating a camouflage that makes it harder for predators to spot them. The color change occurs due to two types of melanin pigment known as eumelanin and phaeomelanin. 

Eumelanin refers to black/brown colors and phaeomelanin results in yellow/red colors. The color depends on the geographical location and different ratios of the two pigments during evolution.

facts about arctic fox

The coat color will be white during the winter months, which blends with snow and during summer, they switch to earthy tones such as grey or brown.

E.g., arctic foxes living around wood would be brown, and those living in rocky cliffs and shores may be more grey which helps them blend in.

5. Excellent Hearing

The arctic fox has excellent hearing, which comes in handy when locating small animals under the snow. The Arctic fox can easily hear lemmings burrowing under 4-5 inches of snow. 

When the meal starts hastening under the snow or makes the high-pitched rustling sound, the arctic fox leaps into the air and dives straight into the snow with the head pointing straight to the ground- opened mouth, and emerges with some food in its mouth.

6. Arctic Foxes are omnivores 

Arctic foxes are omnivores, even though their diet comprises small mammals, including lemmings, voles, and rabbits. 

Lemmings are their top choice, to the degree that the Arctic fox populations can change depending on lemming numbers. 

Moreover, their astute nature implies they are known to take after polar bears and wolves around, rummaging their leftovers. 

When food is scarce in the summer months, they have been known to eat berries and store food in their lairs to keep for afterward.

7. Arctic Family 

Arctic foxes mate for life, and parents stay together during the breeding session. The mother gives birth to around 5-8 pups. Both parents are involved in protecing and taking care of pups.

They raise their pups in the dense underground burrows, often a network of tunnels covering an area – the football field’s size. The social nature of these creatures are amazing facts about arctic fox.

8. Arctic fox is the only native mammal in Iceland

The arctic fox is the only mammal that recites in Iceland, making it the only native mammal of the country. 

Some researchers believe these arctic foxes traveled to Iceland on their own before moving to the frozen sea of Greenland Scandinavia. It is believed to have lived on the island since the last Ice Age and stuck around once the thick glacial ice receded.

9. “Mousing technique” of arctic fox

Arctic foxes are nomadic creatures and keep moving, listening for lemmings under the snow. When they sense or hear the movement of rustling, they move their head, tilting back and forth.

Once it pinpoints the exact location of the rodents, it will attack and come out of the snow with a rodent in its mouth. Sometimes it will jump and dive several feet deep. 

The disguise and snow-covered ground block the sight of its prey and creep forward slowly, listening intently with erect ears.

This hunting technique is given the term mousing technique by the experts, and is one of the amazing facts about arctic fox.

10. Arctic fox communicate using different sound

They use various sounds for their communication that is different from wolves. Arctic foxes make loud yowl if they are far from each other as a warning of danger.

The sounds they use are divided into two kinds: contact sounds and interaction sounds. Contact sounds for long-distance communication, while interaction sounds are used to warn fellow foxes during critical situations.

Researchers recorded the barking sequences of arctic foxes on two males, six females, and one subadult. They can recognize the voice of their family members and neighboring groups with territorial barking organized in series of 2 until 14 sounds.

11. Arctic foxes shelter in burrows

Arctic foxes reside in a burrow on the side of cliffs to seek shelter. They dig under the ground to raise young ones and store the remains of food.

They chose the places that are easier to dig and built their home southward towards the sun to keep warmer in winter. During freezing weather and thunderstorm, they stay in their burrows.

12. 300 years old den of arctic fox

The area covered by the arctic fox dens is around 1,000 square miles or 1,200 square yards. A cave older than 300 years was discovered with a deposit of urine, feces, and leftover kills.

The architecture and technique used in building these dens can be considered one of the amazing facts about arctic fox. Many generations of an arctic fox use dens made by their accessors.

13. High mortality rate 

Female arctic fox gives birth to five to six pups; only one will survive and reach maturity. The cold environment seems to be responsible for the high mortality rate of pups. 

Even in survival, they will be hunted down within three to four years in the wild. So, the mortality rate of pups are high along with the adult who will be part of ecosystem.

14. Dens have 150 entrances and exits

Arctic fox intelligence sparks in the den construction process. There are many mazes in the burrow to escape easily from the predators.

The dens are not just for shelter, and use them as a place to hunt, keep babies safe and store food. Lemmings are attracted to the dens of arctic fox, “the food is served in the platter.” 

One family uses the dens for up to five years, and the next one uses it. In case of predator invasion, they have 150 entrances and exits in 1,000 to 1,2000 square miles.

The main purpose is to be safe from predators and nature. The dens they build, having 150 entrances and exits, is one of the mind-blowing facts about arctic fox.

15. Arctic foxes live in packs.

Arctic foxes are social animals. The term used for the female adult is a vixen, dog for the male, and babies are called kits. Litter is a group of kits born at the same time.

The group of arctic foxes is called “pack,” they like to live as a family. After the male’s second mating, the first female helps take care of the baby and the family. They are understanding, and compassionate.

16. Arctic foxes are monogamous

Out of three to five percent of mammals, arctic foxes are among the monogamous mammals and can be considered odd facts about arctic foxes as they live in the cold climate.

They mate with a single partner for life, except in some cases of separations like death, hunted, and so on. Arctic foxes are faithful to their partner, family, and responsibility towards their society or territory.

facts about arctic fox

Both males and females dedicatedly do the responsibility of parenthood. The male protects their family from predators, while the female feeds and takes care of young ones along with the family.

17. Arctic fox mating rituals

The breeding season of arctic fox starts from February to April. They dig out new dens or relocate into pre-existing burrows. These dens are a long network of tunnels spread to 3,280 square feet.

The gestation period of arctic fox lasts about 52 days; five to eight offspring, called “kits,” are born. They give birth to litters from April to August. Arctic foxes are sexually matured at the age of ten months.

18. Arctic fox can save up their energy 

When food is not available, the arctic fox can reduce its metabolic rate by half. Thereby conserving energy and allowing more time to find food before starvation occurs. Their ability to save energy is one of the amazing facts about arctic fox you may have neglected.

19. Arctic foxes are nocturnal

Arctic foxes are nocturnal animals, and they are well adapted for both day and night vision. 

Arctic foxes are equipped with the sensory weapon, where hearing, smelling, and eyesight are equally powerful. They can hunt their prey even in the darkest conditions.

There are 24 hours of darkness known as polar nights in the arctic region and more than 24 hours of sunlight during summer, known as the midnight sun.

Looking at the adaptation of the arctic foxes at these conditions can be considered the surprising facts about arctic fox.

20. Arctic Fox Predators 

Arctic foxes’ main predators are polar bears, wolves, wolverines, brown bears, red foxes, and humans. Fast golden eagles, bald eagles, and snowy owls swoop down and snatch baby foxes.

However, due to climate change, the temperatures of the arctic region are changing. The arctic becomes less cold sometimes, which becomes a pleasant temperature for bigger red foxes, who are also predators of arctic foxes. 

Indigenous Arctic peoples still preserve the right to hunt arctic foxes for aid, but profitable hunting of the species is now banned. These are the threats of the arctic fox that affect their population.

Arctic foxes are the survivor of the arctic, where it’s harder for mammals or any animals to adapt. These facts about arctic fox explain why they are considered intelligent, strong, and resilence.

The way they take the shelter and look after their young ones and the family shows social behavior. On the other hand, they built dens to keep their pups safe, store foods, and escape predators’ invasion.

(Last Updated On: September 22, 2021)