Arctic Fox

Arctic fox in transition

Photo Credit-USGS

Iñupiaq Name: Qusrhaaq

Scientific Name: Alopex lagopus

The arctic fox is one of those animals that can change their color. In winter, their fur turns white, while in the summer it is more mottled blacks and browns. The white color morph happens more in the northern populations, while the southern populations may have a darker hue to their winter coat.

In Alaska, the arctic fox can be found from coastally from the Aleutian Islands all the way up to Utqiagvik and over to the Canadian boarder. Globally, they can be found in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Russia, and various Arctic islands.

Treeless coastal areas are preferred by the arctic fox in fall and winter to feed off of leftover polar bear scraps, as well as open tundra in the spring and summer for birthing and feeding off of rodents and other small mammals.

Life History:
Arctic foxes breed during early March and April and about a month and a half later 5-8 pups are born in dens 6-12 feet underground. The pups are weaned after approximately 6 weeks, but start to eat meat at around 4 weeks old. They will leave the den after 3 months and become sexually mature around 10 months of age. They can weigh up to 10 pounds and an average length is 43 inches, 15 of those being the tail.

Arctic foxes will eat small mammals, like voles and lemmings, birds, eggs, and insects. They will also eat berries and carrion.

Humans are their main predators, but other carnivores will attack if they are encroaching on their food or territory.

Iñupiaq Cultural Use:
Trapped for their fur, especially their winter coloring.

Last updated: December 12, 2023

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