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Arctic Fox

Alopex lagopus

Arctic Fox in winter coat


The Arctic fox is dark gray to brown to bluish-brown in the summer, white or creamy white in the winter. One variety of Arctic fox has a bluish-gray coat throughout the year. The proportion of "blue foxes" to "standard foxes" varies depending on region, with blues being much more common around coasts and on islands, where there is less snow in the winter. It is about three feet long (not counting its long bushy tail) and weighs between five and fifteen pounds, with males being larger than females.

Thick thick fur and hair on its paw pads help keep the Arctic fox warm, and its short nose and small ears keep heat loss to a minimum. The furry paws also gives the fox beter traction on snow and ice.

Distribution and Habitat

Arctic foxes are found throughout the treeless tundra region that surrounds the Arctic Circle, including most Arctic islands and the eastern coast of Greenland. In the summer it may get within 300 miles of the North Pole.

Its den is usually a burrow in a hillside or snowbank. The burrow has more than one entrance.


An opportunistic feeder, the Arctic fox's diet includes small mammals like lemmings, voles, and ground squirrels, birds, insects, eggs, shellfish, berries, and even carrion. In most parts of its range the Arctic fox is the main predator of ground nesting Arctic birds, their young, and their eggs. Arctic foxes will even follow polar bears and feed on their leftovers.

During the summer, when food is abundant, Arctic foxes kill more than they immediately need. The surplus is carried back to their dens where it is under stones and in crannies for use during the lean times of winter.


The breeding season generally begins in April and the cubs are born in May or June after a gestation of 6 weeks. The average litter contains 5-8 kits, but may number up to 20 when lemming populations are at their peak. A second litter is often born in July or August.

The male guards the den and brings food to the den for the mother and the kits. The kits are weaned when they are 2-4 weeks old, and leave their natal territory by 6 months of age.

Other Information

Arctic foxes often form small bands that range the countryside for food.

In remote areas, Arctic foxes show little to no fear of humans, and will even venture into camps to pilfer food.

Arctic foxes do not hibernate.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Mammalia
order Carnivora
family Canidae
genus & species Alopex lagopus

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Mammals >> Order Carnivora >> Family Canidae

This page was last updated on March 25, 2018.