Arctic Fox

The Arctic Fox is native to the Arctic region and is the only land mammal native to Iceland.

The Arctic Fox

Species Status: Stable, Not Endangered.

The Arctic Fox is one of the most astonishingly unique and heartiest mammal species on Earth, perfectly suited to live and survive in the planet’s harsh polar climate. The species lives throughout the Arctic regions in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is the only land mammal that is native to Iceland.

The range where the Arctic Fox lives. (Map : Defenders of Wildlife)

These are relatively small, compact mammals with short legs and small muzzles, eyes and ears, extensively blanketed by the highest level of insulated fur of any mammal. The bottoms of their paws are coated with fur to help insulate them and prevent slippage on the ice. It is this condensed body structure of the Arctic Fox that significantly reduces the body area exposed to the cold so less heat escapes from its body.

The Arctic Fox evolved as the last major ice age swept the continent about 2.6 million years ago and arrived in Iceland at the end of the last ice age some 11,000 years ago. Today, the Arctic Fox’s numbers are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands throughout its natural range.

These intelligent animals live in large, frost-free dens that they create and maintain, slightly raised above the ground and facing southwards towards the sun for warmth. They prefer maze-like dens with a complex system of tunnels and multiple exits to protect themselves from predators. Many dens may be in existence for decades and used by multiple generations.

The Arctic Fox global population is listed as stable and is not protected throughout most of its range and is not listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); however, the species and its dens have total legal government protection in Sweden, Norway and Finland where only 120 collectively are known to exist.

Arctic Fox Fast Facts!

Arctic Fox in summer coat. (Wikimedia CC 3.0 by Matthias.)
  • Also known as:  White Fox, Polar Fox.
  • Class: Mammal
  • Order – Type: Omnivore (eats both meat and plants, but primarily meat)
  • Color: White in the winter, brown-black with gray in the summer.
  • Size: 45-68 cm | 18-27 inches long.
  • Weight (Male): 3 – 9.54 kilograms | 7 – 21 pounds
  • Weight (Female): 1.3 – 3.2 kilograms | 3 – 7 pounds
  • Range: Throughout all the Arctic regions; also the Subarctic regions of Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway, as well as the northern fringes of North America and Asia.
  • Global Population: Several hundred thousand, fluctuating across a three-four-year cycle, to as many as 920,000. One average estimate over four years is about 630,000. However, only about 120 exist in Finland, Sweden and Norway, combined.
  • Life Span: 3 – 6 years in the wild; up to 14 years in captivity.
  • Predators: Polar bears, wolverines, red foxes, eagles, and human hunters.
  • Threat Status:  Stable, not endangered.  Listed by IUCN as “Least Concern.” Not listed as a threatened or endangered species by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Additional Readings on the Arctic Fox