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Arctic fox

Arctic fox
Latin name: Alopex lagopus
Family: Dogs

Arctic fox (common), or polar fox is a predatory mammal of the dog family, the only representative of the fox species (Alopex). A relatively small predatory animal, reminiscent of a fox. The length of the body is 50-75 cm, the tail is 25-30 cm, the height at the withers is 20-30 cm. The average body weight of the male is 3,5 kg; the maximum weight is up to 9 kg; females 3 kg. Unlike the fox, the fox's body is squat, its muzzle is short; Ears are rounded, slightly protruding from winter wool (this protects them from frostbite). The name of the species - lagopus - in translation from the Greek. "Hare's paw", since the soles of the paws of the arctic foxes are covered with hard hairs. This is the only representative of the dog family, which has a pronounced seasonal dimorphism of color. By coloring distinguish the usual white (in winter - pure white, in summer - dirty-brown) and blue fox. The latter has a dark winter outfit: from sand and light coffee to dark gray with a bluish reflection and even brown with silver. Blue foxes are found in all populations, but on the mainland they are rare, and on some islands, on the contrary, they predominate. Spring moult fox, as a rule, begins in March-April and lasts up to 4 months. Autumn - from September to December. The best fur in polar foxes is in January-February.

Arctic fox
Distribution and subspecies

Arctic fox is distributed beyond the Arctic Circle, on the coast and islands of the Arctic Ocean, in the tundra and forest-tundra zones. In Russia it is a typical representative of the fauna of the continental tundra and forest-tundra. During the winter travels, the arctic fox enters South Finland, the southern part of the Baikal region, the lower reaches Cupid. Forms only 7 subspecies. Such a weakly expressed geographical variability is due to the great mobility of foxes and the constant mixing of populations.

Arctic fox
Lifestyle and nutrition

Typical habitats for arctic fox are open tundra with hilly relief. On sandy hills and coastal terraces, he digs burrows, complex underground labyrinths with many (up to 60-80) entrances. Noru fox digs in soft soil surrounded by stones (they protect the entrance from digging up by large predators) to the level of permafrost, deepening it as the ground thaws. The holes are never more than half a kilometer from the water. Suitable places for construction of holes in the tundra are small, therefore Arctic foxes use them for years, sometimes for 15-20 years in a row, and with breaks - hundreds and even thousands of years, so that some hills are completely rutted. Less often fox settles among placers of stones or in piles of fin on the coast. In winter, arctic foxes are often satisfied with a simple lair in the snow. Arctic fox in summer color The Arctic fox is omnivorous, its composition includes 125 species of animals and 25 species of plants. However, its basis is made up of small rodents, especially lemmings, as well as birds. It feeds both thrown ashore, and extracted fish, as well as plant food: berries (blueberries, cloudberries), herbs, seaweed (sea cabbage). He does not give up the carrion. On the coast, a polar fox often accompanies polar bears, and he gets some of the meat of dead seals. Finally, he eats trapped animals, without making an exception even for other arctic foxes. In summer, he stores excess food in the den for the winter. The fox has a well developed hearing and sense of smell; Somewhat weaker - vision. The voice represents yapping barking.

Arctic fox
Social Structure and Reproduction

As a rule, these animals are monogamous, although sometimes (on the Commander Islands) there are cases of polygamy. A typical family of polar foxes consists of a male, female, young female from the previous litter and cubs of the current year. Usually families live separately, but can also settle in colonies for 2-3 families. The area of ​​the habitat of the Arctic Fox family varies from 2 to 30 km2. A considerable part of the year the arctic fox sits roaming in search of food. By the time of reproduction, arctic foxes return to those areas from which they migrated in the autumn-winter, and either occupy ready-made burrows or dig new ones. The feast occurs in March-April and is accompanied by fights of males. Pregnancy 49-57 days; In litter 7-12 and more cubs (the largest number among predators). The male, together with the female, takes care of the offspring. White foxes are born with dark, smoky-brown fur, blue - almost brown. Eyes open on 9-18 day; At the age of six months reach the size of their parents. They can reproduce the next year, although they reach full development only in the second year (very rarely at first).

Arctic fox
Factors affecting the number

The number of Arctic foxes is subject to sharp fluctuations, depending on the abundance of fodder (especially lemmings). Migrations have a big impact on the number of local populations. Every autumn, a lot of animals inhabiting the tundra, goes along the sea coasts and river valleys to the south. In the spring, foxes gradually return back. In the years of famine these resettlements take on a particularly massive character. Many of the wandering animals die. The foxes are pursued by larger predators. It is attacked by foxes, wolverines and wolves; Young foxes are grabbed by eagles and white owls. Young foxes often die from helminthic invasions, adults - from wildlife (viral arctic encephalitis of animals), less often - from rabies. The lifespan of arctic foxes is 6-10 years.

Economic importance

Arctic fox is an important game beast, it is a source of valuable fur; In the north is the basis of fur trade. Especially appreciated are the pelts of blue fox, which is also an object of cellular breeding. On the islands, surrounded by ice-free sea, there is a semi-free breeding - the Arctic foxes live at liberty and, at the signal, resort to special traps for food. Farms for breeding polar foxes are found in the northern and middle latitudes of America, Europe and Asia.

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