The arctic fox lives throughout the Arctic tundra to the North, in Canada, Alaska, Russia, Scandinavia, and Greenland. In fact, in Greenland, the arctic fox is the only native land mammal. Living in such a frigid climate isn’t easy, as the temperatures regularly fall to minus 40, but the arctic fox is perfectly adapted in every way to deal with it.
For one thing, their snout and ears are short, meaning that they are closer to their bodies and won’t lose heat so quick. The arctic fox’s legs are also shorter than those of other foxes for the same reasons. A coat of thick, fluffy fur stops freezing air from reaching the fox’s skin. Their fur also shifts color depending on the season. In the winter, their fur is white, as seen above, helping them blend into the snow. During the summer, when some of the snow and ice melts, their fur turns brown. Other animals who live in arctic climates, such as the snowshoe hare, also have this adaptation. In addition to thick fur on their bodies, arctic foxes also have fur on the bottom of their feet, which lets them walk on snow or ice without damaging their paws.
Arctic foxes primarily eat lemmings, although they will scavenge for other food and even eat the leftovers of other predators, such as polar bears. Arctic foxes have excellent hearing and so hunt in a unique way. When they hear a lemming under the snow, they will jump into the air and dive under the snow in one movement to catch prey. Arctic foxes are actually omnivores, though, and have been known to eat vegetables when they’re available, which isn’t often, considering how inhospitable most of their home is to plant growth.
Here is a fun fact for you. A group of arctic foxes is called a skulk. They live in burrows, and a single burrow can cover 500 square feet of land, and might have as many as 100 entrances. Arctic foxes mate for life, generally having a litter of five to 10 puppies per year. Both the mother and the father raise the young. The puppies are born at the start of summer and depend on their parents for a little while, as long as they are still vulnerable and inexperienced. Usually by the beginning of winter, though, they are prepared to survive and strike out on their own. They are expected to grow up very quickly.
Living in a cold arctic environment and being perfectly adapted to live among ice and snow means that the arctic foxes are particularly at risk from the effects of climate change. Not only do their ranges shrink as the snowline recedes, but the other animals who make up their habitat also are affected. Any harm done to prey populations directly influence predator species. Luckily, the arctic fox is versatile and is still at Least Concern, but it won’t always stay that way if something isn’t done to curb climate change.
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