Forgotten Species – Arctic Fox

Almost everyone has heard about the problems polar bears are facing because of global warming. However, many other animals are also affected by this phenomenon. One of these, which literally follows in the footprints of the polar bear – is the arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus). This small fox, native to the arctic regions of the northern hemisphere, often eats of the remains of carcasses that the polar bear has left behind.

The arctic fox is a fascinating little species which is adapted to live in the extreme conditions of the northern parts of the planet. Their thick fur and body fat enables them to survive in temperatures below -50C. Their short legs, nose and small ears decreases the surface area exposed to the cold, which also helps them to retain body heat.

A group of foxes usually consists of the parents and their offspring from previous years. Older foxes help their parents to rear younger siblings. Their main prey is lemmings, but they also eat hares, voles, owls, eggs and carrion.

The arctic fox can be found throughout the world's arctic landscapes. The world population is not endangered, but some subpopulations are. One of these is found in Scandinavia. This population decreased severely during the beginning of the 20th century when foxes were hunted for their fur. A more recent threat is the larger red fox now spreading further north, due to climate change. Red foxes compete for food recourses and territories but also kill arctic foxes. Today’s remaining small populations are more sensitive to lack of food. Inbreeding, diseases, disturbances from tourists and domestic dogs are all problems faced by this beautiful animal. The Scandinavian population is estimated to be just over 200 breeding adults.

Today there are teams dedicated to saving the arctic fox. Efforts such as supplementary feeding, disease control and red fox hunting may be crucial for the future survival of the small populations of foxes such as those found in Scandinavia. Raised awareness and understanding about the situation and the concerns for the arctic fox may be equally important.

Photographers for Conservation´s vision is to throw light on wildlife that does not usually get as much attention as more 'popular' species.

Find out more about this and other forgotten species on the website of Photographers for Conservation, who have also provided EOCA with many wonderful wildlife images on their website.