Here at the zoo, we have one Arctic fox named Blizzard! He shares his exhibit with our gray fox, Shadow. Blizzard was born on June 1st, 2012 and was transferred here from a private facility in Ohio in August 2012. He is very curious and loves interacting with new enrichment-especially if it is edible!
Compared to the slender bodies and long legs of other foxes, Arctic foxes have a stocky body with short legs and torso. They have extremely long and bushy tails that muffle the sounds made by their bodies crossing terrain. Arctic foxes shed their coat twice a year. In springtime, they lose their long winter coats, and in autumn they start acquiring a new winter pelt. A camouflaging change in coloration accompanies these molts. The familiar pure white winter pelt is commonly associated with Arctic foxes. After the spring molt, the white morph has a short summer pelt that appears gray to brown on the face, legs and upper body, while the under body fur is lighter colored. Arctic foxes are medium-size foxes that weigh from 10-20 pounds. Its physical characteristics of superb insulation with fur and fat, combined with its stocky body shape enable the Arctic fox to conserve body heat. Therefore, it can continue to remain active throughout the frigid months. During winters, their densely furred paws prevent heat loss through their feet. They also have the ability to restrict blood flow to the legs, which helps maintain core body heat. Lastly, the Arctic fox has a tremendous tolerance for cold. Its metabolic rate only starts to increase at -58° F and it only starts to shiver when temperatures reach -94° F!
Arctic foxes inhabit treeless Arctic and alpine tundra. They live in both coastal and inland areas of the mainland and on islands. Arctic foxes travel extensively and possess large range sizes from 2,100-15,000 acres. Other than humans, the Arctic fox travels more extensively than any terrestrial animal. The Arctic fox's range includes the circumpolar northern Arctic regions of North America, Scandinavia, Siberia, Greenland and Iceland.
Mating occurs in mid-spring, and the young emerge in late spring or early summer after an average gestation period of 52 days. Litters range from three to twelve, with an average of seven. Short, dark, brown fur covers all newborn pups. Many pups do not reach adulthood, as there are high mortality rates among the young. The male guards the den and may lead intruders away from the den site. He also brings back food for both the mother and her pups. The pups begin eating meat at 1 month old and the mother weans them around one and half months after birth. By 3 months old, the pups begin to travel away from the den and participate in hunts. In autumn, the family unit gradually dissolves and these foxes spend the winters in solitary.
In the wild: 3-7 years
In human care: 6-10 years
In the wild, Arctic foxes are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders. Small mammals make up their preferred summer diet. However, they also eat plants, bird eggs, insects and fish. Winter diets include small marine mammals, birds, small seals, invertebrates, and carrion.