Are arctic foxes an endangered species?



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Are arctic foxes an endangered species?

Arctic foxes are widespread in circumpolar areas, throughout the Arctic including Russia, Canada, Nunavut, far northern Alaska, Greenland and Svalbard, as well as in subarctic and alpine areas of Iceland, in the mountainous interior of Scandinavia and the Lapland hills of Finland.

They mainly live in the tundra and coastal areas. Its range during the last ice age was much more extensive than it is now, and fossil remains of the Arctic fox have been found over much of northern Europe and Siberia. The world population of Arctic foxes is thus not endangered, but two Arctic fox subpopulations are.

One is on Medny Island, which was reduced by some 85–90%, to around 90 animals, as a result of mange caused by an ear tick introduced by dogs in the 1970s.

Are arctic foxes an endangered species?

The IUCN red list classifies the arctic fox as least risk, because it has a large range and its reproductive capacity allows that populations, whose number of specimens ordinarily tends to fluctuate in cycle with the lemming population, are mostly not endangered by hunters.

However, it is considered necessary to monitor both hunting and interactions between the arctic fox and the red fox, whose range is expanding. The conservation status of the species is good, except in Fennoscandia, where it is highly endangered despite decades of legal protection from hunting.

In this area, the impact on populations of sarcoptic mange and pollution is of growing importance. Arctic foxes tend to form monogamous pairs in the breeding season. The young are born at the beginning of summer and are raised in large dens: the litters are in fact very numerous compared to the average of mammals; reproduction is linked to the availability of food, and in years of abundance the arctic fox can have up to 19 young, the highest number known in the order Carnivora.

The arctic fox has a very varied diet: its main food source is lemmings, but it can also feed on arctic hares, carrion, birds, frequently passerines and partridges, but also seabirds such as guillemot and migratory birds such as goose canadian, and eggs.

Predation on ringed seal pups is possible from April to May, as these animals are confined to the snow and relatively helpless.