- The arctic fox is Iceland’s only native land mammal.
- Iceland has plenty of birds, fish, whales and seals, but you won’t find many mammals on land. In fact, the Arctic fox is the only native land animal. Today, you’ll also find wild minks, reindeer and even rabbits, but they’re here as a result of import programs, faulty fences, and negligent pet owners.
- It’s not popular with local farmers.
- Since humans began settling in Iceland, they have been battling against the arctic fox. Early on, the fur was extremely valuable. But the critters soon became a nuisance to farmers and would try to eat smaller livestock or steal eggs. In an effort to curb the fox population, municipalities would compensate people for each fox they caught. This competition developed into a common practice of Icelanders hunting foxes – an activity still legal and popular today.
- If you want to see one, go to the Westfjords
- Arctic foxes are found all over Iceland, but they are most numerous in the Westfjords, most likely because of the diverse bird life and bountiful bird cliffs in the region.
- It’s their sanctuary
- In 1994, the abandoned nature reserve on Hornstrandir became the first place in Iceland to protect the arctic fox. The fox population in the area is thriving although there are some concerns about their wellbeing due to aggressive wildlife photographers.
- You can find out more
- In 2010, arctic fox researchers Páll Hersteinsson and Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir opened The Arctic Fox Centre in Súðavík in the Westfjords. It not only functions as the main source of information on these animals but also serves as a temporary sanctuary for orphaned or injured foxes.
The Arctic Fox Center is the world’s only exhibition on the arctic fox and is a perfect stop while traveling in the Westfjords. Here, you will learn about the nature of the foxes, the history of their interaction with Icelanders, and how the climate crisis affects their natural habitats. Plus, you will get a chance to feed the resident arctic foxes!
And if you can’t get enough, you can also volunteer to work at the center.