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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Arctic Fox Alopex Lagopus

The Arctic Fox Alopex Lagopus lives throughout the tundra, usually in burrows on hillsides or cliff faces. It feeds on any small mammals and birds it can find, alive or dead, but its main prey is lemmings, especially in summer.

The Arctic Fox has furry soles, short ears, and a short muzzle, all important adaptations to the cold climate. It does not hibernate, but forges throughout the winter and digs a burrow in the snow for shelter in severe blizzards. It frequently digs through the snow to reach lemmings and, like the stout, stores dead lemmings in the snow.

Arctic Foxes have stunning white (sometimes blue-gray) coats that act as very successful winter camouflage. The natural hues allow the animal to blend into the tundra's ever-present 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.

Often in winter the Arctic Fox becomes a scavenger, following the region´s premier predator (the polar bear) on to the sea ice and living off the leftover scraps from the bear´s kills. Foxes will also eat vegetables when they are obtainable. Arctic Foxes usually hunt alone, but from time to time they congregate to feed off carrion, such as the carcass of a whale.

The Arctic Fox breeds in March, when the presence of lemming litter helps to ensure that the vixen remains in good condition during pregnancy. The vixen gives birth each spring to a large litter of up to 14 young. When fully grown the Arctic Fox measures 18 – 26.75 in (46 to 68 cm), tail - up to 13.75 in (35 cm) and weighs 6.5 to 17 lbs (3 to 8 kg). Like a cat's tail, the Fox's thick tail aids its balance. However for an Arctic Fox the tail is particularly useful as warm cover in cold weather. The average life span in the wild of these beautiful creatures is from 3 to 6 years.

Source/Image: National Geographic

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