In Iceland, you can spot wildlife like puffins, whales, reindeer… and arctic foxes. In this article, we will tell you 14 facts you didn’t know about the arctic fox.
1. The arctic fox is the only land mammal in Iceland that reached the country without help of humans and is therefore the only land mammal native to Iceland. At the end of the last Ice Age, long before human settlement, arctic foxes walked over sea ice to reach Iceland.
2. Research from Durham University shows that arctic foxes also crossed an “ice bridge” to reach Iceland at the end of a period known as the Little Ice Age about 800 years ago, during which huge parts of the arctic seas were frozen. Arctic foxes could cross over to Iceland from other arctic regions quite easily, even though the travels were long and dreary.
3. There are two genetically distinct types of coat color: white and blue ones. The white morph has camouflage that changes with the seasons, white in winter and brown/light grey in summer. The blue morph is dark blue, brown, or grey all year round.
4. You can find arctic foxes all over Iceland, in the highlands as well as lower coastal areas. They are pretty shy and are mostly active at night, so you have to be lucky to spot one in the wild. In isolated, uninhabited areas like Hornstrandir, arctic foxes feel more at ease around humans and are therefore easier to spot.
5. Arctic foxes are well-suited to living in cold environments and only start shivering when temperatures drop below -70°C [-94°F].
6. The arctic fox has a thick, warm fur. It is multi-layered and insulates well. It keeps the fox warm and is also its camouflage.
7. It has a large, fluffy tail, which also helps with keeping the arctic fox warm. To prevent heat loss, the fox curls up tucking its legs and head under its body and fluffy tail. Arctic foxes also stay out of the wind as much as possible and spend a lot of time hiding away in their dens.
8. Its body length ranges from 46-68cm [18-27in], it is small and fairly round-shaped to minimise chances of body heat escaping.
9. The arctic fox preys on seal pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds. It also eats carrion and insects, and more surprisingly, berries and seaweed!
10. Arctic foxes are monogamous during the breeding season, and they raise their young together in their dens. They have litters of 6-10 kits.
11. Natural predators of the Arctic fox in Iceland are golden eagles. Some farmers consider arctic foxes a pest and hunt them.
12. Arctic foxes do not hibernate, and build up fat reserves in the autumn. If they are lucky enough, they can increase their body weight by more than 50%! This keeps them warmer in the winter and keeps them going when there is no food around.
13. The foot pads of the arctic fox are covered in fur, and it is the only member of the dog family that has this.
14. Iceland has an Arctic Fox Centre, located in Súðavík in the Westfjords. The Arctic Fox Centre is a non-profit research and exhibition centre.