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The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is a small species of fox native to the Arctic region in the Northern Hemisphere of the world. It is also known as the white fox, owing to its pure white coat, and polar fox or snow fox, owing to the fact that it is found in the snow-clad polar areas of the Arctic region. It is one of the few animals that can survive the extreme cold of the Arctic, and its superb adaptation skills play a key role in its survival.

Basically, there are four subspecies of the Arctic fox ...
  • Bering Islands Arctic fox
  • Iceland Arctic fox
  • Pribilof Islands Arctic fox
  • Greenland Arctic fox
As their names suggest, they are named on the basis of the place wherein they are found. These subspecies differ from each other slightly, such that it will be quite difficult for you to differentiate if you don't know much about them.

Arctic Fox Information

Description: Generally, the Arctic fox sports a pure-white coat made from thick fur, which protects it from severe cold. On an average, this species grows to attain a length of 33 - 43 inches, excluding the tail, which is around 12-inches long. The average shoulder height for this species ranges anywhere between 9 - 12 inches. While the males weigh anywhere between 7 - 21 lbs, females weigh between 4 - 17 lbs. Overall, the appearance of this species resembles that of a dog to a significant extent. As adorable as it may seem, keeping it as a pet is not all advisable.

Habitat: The natural habitat of the Arctic fox is typically characterized by snow-clad regions with extremely cold temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. Its geographical range spans the polar areas of Greenland, Russia, Canada, and Alaska. While the sightings of this species in Iceland and Scandinavian peninsula are quite common, occasional sightings are reported from countries like Norway, Sweden, and Finland as well.

Diet: It can feed on anything that it comes across, right from small mammals, like lemmings and Tundra voles, to carrion. In polar regions, animal carcasses do not decompose due to the prevailing cold climate. These carcasses serve as an important source of food for the Arctic foxes. Other that this, this fox also feeds on small mammals, which burrow in ground, birds (as well as their eggs), which are found near the seafront, and fish, found in water sources. In times of food scarcity, they are known to feed on leftovers left by larger predators, like polar bears and Arctic wolves.

Adaptations: When it comes to survival in extreme conditions, adaptations have a crucial role to play. In case of the Arctic fox, there are quite a few adaptations which help it survive the extreme cold in its natural habitat. The most important of these, is the thick fur coat and body fat which helps it retain heat. In fact, the fur coat sported by this species is warmest among the numerous mammalian species found in this region. Similarly, its narrow legs and rounded paws ensure minimal contact with cold ground. The pure white coat also acts as a camouflage when it comes to hunting (and saving itself from the larger predators). Other than these adaptations, the species has a peculiar habit of hiding food beneath the snow, which comes handy in times of food scarcity.

Human encroachment has not yet affected their natural habitat directly, but the Arctic fox―along with other polar animals―has had to bear the brunt of human-induced global warming off late. Rapidly melting polar ice and ever-shortening cold season have been fueling the destruction of its habitat. Though the animal still enjoys the status of being a 'Least Concern' species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, current trends suggest that the things are going to change if something is not done soon.