Arctic Fox

(Alopex lagopus)




Facts about this animal

The Arctic fox is a small fox (ca. 3–5 kg) native to cold Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It has reduced limb size, a short snout, short and rounded ears, and a dense winter coat. The soles of its feet are covered entirely with dense hair. The tail is bushy and accounts for one-third of the total head and body length (53-55 cm, tail length: 30-31 cm). Females are only slightly smaller than males.


The Arctic fox is the only fox occupying Arctic habitats and the only Canid to change colour during winter. Two colour morphs are known: the white and the blue colour morph. During the winter the white morph is white with black at the tip of its tail; it's a grayish brown in the summer. The blue morph is a dark blue during the winter; in the summer it is brown.


Arctic foxes are opportunistic feeders, eating nearly everything they can find or catch. They eat lemmings, rodents, birds, fish, marine mammals and carrion. Sometimes Arctic foxes will follow polar bears and feed on the leftovers.


Family composition of arctic foxes may vary from monogamous pairs, to pairs with additional adults. The presence of additional family members is independent of the state of the rodent cycle and the reproductive state of the breeding pair. Additional family members contribute only a small amount of the food provided to young pups and are therefore not regarded as true helpers. Breeding adults remain resident within the same territory even in years with low abundance of rodents, when they did not breed. Pups leave their natal territory by 6 months of age, although some subsequently may return to their natal range or one of the adjacent dens.

Did you know?
That the Artic Fox has the warmest fur of any mammal? It is bred in farms for fur production, and in Alaska between 500 and 17'000 (average 4'000) wild Arctic foxes are harvested for their pelt per year. The demand for Arctic fox fur has diminished in recent years, but the sale of their pelts is still important to the economy of many coastal native villages.


Name (Scientific) Alopex lagopus
Name (English) Arctic Fox
Name (French) Renard polaire
Name (German) Eisfuchs
Name (Spanish) Zorro ártico
Local names Danish: Polarræv
Finnish: Naali, Napakettu
Icelandic: Refur
Norwegian: Fjellrev
Swedish: Fjällräv
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Circumpolar distribution (Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Sweden, United States (Alaska; Aleutian Is.))
Habitat Arctic tundra habitats
Wild population The world population of Arctic foxes is in the order of several hundred thousand animals. Most populations fluctuate widely in numbers between years in response to varying lemming numbers. In most areas population status is believed to be good (IUCN Red list 2011)
Zoo population 85 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Arctic Fox


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 82 of the IATA Live Animals Regulation should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Why do zoos keep this animal

Most arctic foxes kept by zoos do not represent the wild form but are animals bred for fur production. They are kept for educational purposes (adaptation to the cold and a snowy environment, two colour morphs, rodent-predator life cycle, interesting social life) and as an ambassador species to draw attention to the problem of global warming.