Map

Map: Arctic fox range

Arctic Fox Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Omnivore
Average life span in the wild:
3 to 6 years
Size:
Head and body, 18 to 26.75 in (46 to 68 cm); tail, up to 13.75 in (35 cm)
Weight:
6.5 to 17 lbs (3 to 8 kg)
Group name:
Skulk or leash
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Arctic fox compared with adult man

The arctic fox is an incredibly hardy animal that can survive frigid Arctic temperatures as low as –58°F (-50°C) in the treeless lands where it makes its home. It has furry soles, short ears, and a short muzzle—all-important adaptations to the chilly clime. Arctic foxes live in burrows, and in a blizzard they may tunnel into the snow to create shelter.

Arctic foxes have beautiful white (sometimes blue-gray) coats that act as very effective winter camouflage. The natural hues allow the animal to blend into the tundra's ubiquitous snow and ice. When the seasons change, the fox's coat turns as well, adopting a brown or gray appearance that provides cover among the summer tundra's rocks and plants.

These colorings help foxes to effectively hunt rodents, birds, and even fish. But in winter prey can be scarce on the ground. At such times, arctic foxes will follow the region's premier predator—a polar bear—to eat the leftover scraps from its kills. Foxes will also eat vegetables when they are available.

Like a cat's, this fox's thick tail aids its balance. But for an arctic fox the tail (or "brush") is especially useful as warm cover in cold weather.

Female arctic foxes give birth each spring to a large litter of up to 14 pups.

Mammal Features

  • Photo: Close-up of an African lion

    Animal Conservation

    Find out what National Geographic Society is doing to save animals all over the world, and learn what you can do to help.

  • hawaiian-monk-critter-cam.jpg

    Crittercam Helps Study Rare Species

    The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the oldest species of seal on the planet. But their tenure in paradise is perilously close to its end; only about 1,100 seals remain in the wild.

  • Masai Mara Lion

    Lions Quiz

    The king of cats rules with a roar and a fierce bite. What else do you know about this top predator?

  • Photo: Lion bares his teeth

    Cause an Uproar

    Big cats are quickly disappearing. Now is the time to act. Cause an uproar to save big cats today.

Photos

  •  Picture of a Malayan tiger

    Pictures: Tiger Subspecies

    Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world. Meet the subspecies and see what threats each is facing.

See more animal photos »

From the Magazine

  • Photo of the lions of the Vumbi pride.

    The Surprising Lives of Lions

    In case you missed it: See these breathtaking videos and photos from inside a wild Serengeti pride.

  • Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.