Arctic foxes are unique in the way that they can adapt to cold environments. Arctic foxes survive in these conditions because of several adaptations.
Arctic foxes have multilayered fur to insulate their bodies against the icy wind. The fur changes to white in the winter to help keep them safe from predators. They have round bodies with short legs, muzzles, and ears, ensuring a low surface area to volume ratio to minimize heat loss.
In this article, you can find some great facts and information about how the arctic fox survives.
How Does an Arctic Fox Adapt to its Environment?
Arctic foxes are located in the northern hemisphere’s arctic regions. They possess several adaptations that help them adapt to the cold seasons.
Arctic foxes have multilayered fur which provides excellent insulation against the cold. The pelage that covers the arctic foxes body is thick and consists of oily guard hair. The oil keeps moisture away from the body while the underfur acts as an insulator to keep the animal warm.
The arctic fox has something to protect its feet from the snow and ice. They have fur on the bottom of their footpads, which gives them grip when walking on ice and insulates their feet and legs. The arctic fox is the only species of canid with fur on its footpads.
Arctic foxes have two distinct coat colors, which are bluish brown and white. The white coat is a seasonal camouflage, helping them to evade predators and catch prey. Their coat changes to white during winter and bluish brown with some grey traces during summer. Almost all arctic foxes grow white fur, which provides the best insulation against the cold.
Arctic foxes are well known for their rounded body shape, short legs and muzzles, and thick ears. These characteristics give them a low surface area to volume ratio, which helps keep them warm. The lesser the surface area exposed to the arctic cold, the less heat that escapes the body.
Arctic foxes reduce their metabolic rate in the winter season to conserve fat stored in the body. This allows them to minimize the energy used and use it to help insulate them.
Arctic foxes reduce their locomotor activities in winter to help them reserve enough fat.
During summer, arctic foxes keep their brains cool with the aid of their noses. The cooling is made possible as their noses cool down the intake of air.
Arctic foxes also stay warm by avoiding the wind and staying in their underground dens. This also allows them to raise their young ones.
How Does an Arctic Fox Protect Itself?
Arctic foxes have a keen sense of smell that aids them to track predators such as polar bears to avoid them. Arctic foxes have sharp teeth and claws that are effective during hunting and for self-defense against larger predators.
Their coats camouflage enables them to blend with the surrounding environment and hide from predators. During winter, the coat turns white to blend in with the snow. This helps them to spot their prey and also hide from predators. In summer, the coat can turn brown to blend with the environment around it.
What Does an Arctic Fox Eat?
Arctic foxes are omnivores feeding on small creatures, including sea birds, voles, and lemmings. They will also eat rodents, hares, birds, eggs, fish, birds eggs, and carrion. They also feed on berries and seaweed, as well as insects to supplement their diet.
Lemmings are their most common prey, and often the amount eaten will help their bodies decide on the number of pups they can give birth to.
The arctic fox also feeds on carcasses left behind by other predators such as polar bears. One of the most astonishing facts and an ingenious way to survive is that the arctic fox feeds on its feces during starvation.
How Does Brown Fur Help Them?
During summer, Arctic foxes shed their heavy white coats and change color to brown or grey. The shedding provides cover for the fox among the tundra’s rocks and plants to effectively hunt rodents, birds, and fish.
The color change protects the fox from their predators as they blend into the environment, enabling them to pounce on their prey swiftly.
Their coats are much thinner in summer, unlike the thick fur during winter. The arctic fox also reduces in size due to the shedding and looks quite unlike the bulky winter foxes. This helps to cool down the body.
What are the Predators of an Arctic Fox?
Arctic foxes have several natural predators. These include golden eagles, polar bears, wolverines, red foxes, wolves, and grizzly bears.
Where Do Arctic Foxes Den?
Arctic foxes give birth in spring. At this time, they start to prepare their homes with their young. They live in dens situated under the surface, which serve as a perfect hideout for both them and the young from the harsh climate and predators. The dens are reused for generations by different groups of foxes.
The arctic fox uses its building skills to keep warm. They build and choose dens that face southwards towards the sun to keep the den warmer. Arctic foxes prefer to make their dens in a maze-like shape, which allows for faster evasion of predators such as red foxes.
How Do They Keep Pups Safe?
Arctic foxes can produce up to eighteen cubs, depending on the availability of food around. The more lemmings to feed on, the more the pups they give birth to.
Arctic foxes are known to be monogamous even when taking care of their pups. Both males and females exhibit complex social structures when predators are in plentiful supply to secure their pups.
They stay in large packs of breeding and non-breeding males and females. The large groups help them keep a single territory safe and increase their pup’s survival chances. Older offspring remain in the dens to cater to the young even in the absence of predators.
How is their Habitat changing?
Arctic foxes are not yet an endangered species. However, along with other northern animals, they face a problem as their habitats keep on shifting due to climate change.
Arctic foxes used to have less competition with predators, but this has changed in recent years.
Animals attracted to warmer places have shifted to the north, posing competition to the arctic fox’s habitat. Red foxes are now their main predators.
Arctic foxes are often dominated by aggressive red foxes who take their dens, leaving them to survive without food or a home. The arctic foxes build up more dens to home themselves and will wait until red foxes vacate before moving back into their dens.