ARCTIC FOX

It is comparatively small animal which in many ways look like a common fox. The body length is 50-75 cm, the tail length is 25-30 cm, the height at the shoulder is 20-30 cm. The average bodyweight of a male fox is 3.5 kg, the maximum weight is 9 kilos. Such large species are rarely seen naturally but are common for artificial propagation. The female species weigh up to 3 kg. In contrast to a fox, the arctic fox has a squat body and shortened face; its ears are rounded and hardly seen from under the winter hair (which helps against cold injury).

The paw soles of arctic fox are covered with coarse hairs. These animals have very acute hearing and smelling. They can smell their prey at the distance of several kilometers. The sense of sight is a little bit worse. The animal’s voice resembles the yappy barking.

Artic foxes differ in marking – there is common white arctic fox (pure white in winter, soot-colored in summer) and blue fox. The artificial propagation gives a wide range of colors. The blue fox has the dark marking in winter time – from sand-colored and light coffee-colored to dark grey with bluish glow and even brown-silver.

The arctic fox is omnivorous: there are 125 animal and 25 plant species in its feed composition. But the main food of the animal is small rodents (particularly lemmings) and birds. The fox also eats fish (beached and caught) and plant food: berries, blackberry, fen berry, cowberry, grass, sea weed and tangle. It also likes carrion. In summer time the artic fox stores excesses of food in its lair in order to feed itself during winter.

The typical habitat is open tundra with undulating terrain. The animal makes its burrows in sandy tuffets and shore terraces; the burrows represent complex underground labyrinths with many (up to 60-80) exits. Such burrows develop after many generations of foxes that have been living inside of them.

The burrows never go further than half-kilometer from the water. There are limited suitable places for building of these burrows so arctic foxes use them for years, sometimes for 15-20 years in a row and, taking into account short-term breaks, for hundreds and even thousands of years resulting in certain hills being totally dug up.

The population of the fox differs greatly at various years depending on availability of the animal’s common food – lemmings and voles.

The gestation period is 52–53 days. The whelping time is late May-early June. In time of food abundance the female gives birth to 10-12 and sometimes 22-25 cubs. In bad years the offspring is not more than 3-5 cubs. But even during wealthy years many of the cubs die and there are only 6-7 animals left from the offspring by the autumn. The cubs go out of the burrows in the age of one month.