The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and is common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. It is well adapted to living in cold environments. It has a deep thick fur which is brown in summer and white in winter. It averages in size at about 85.3 cm (33.6 in) in body length, with a generally rounded body shape to minimize the escape of body heat They prey on any small animals they can find, including lemmings, voles, ringed seal pups, fish, and seabirds. They will also eat carrion, berries, and seaweed. They form monogamous pairs during the breeding season and usually stay together in family groups of multiple generations in complex underground dens.
The arctic fox lives in some of the most frigid extremes on the planet. Among its adaptations for cold survival is its deep, thick fur, a system of countercurrent heat exchange in the circulation within the paws to retain core temperature, and a good supply of body fat. The fox has a low surface area to volume ratio, as evidenced by its generally rounded body shape, short muzzle and legs, and short, thick ears. Since less of its surface area is exposed to the arctic cold, less heat escapes the body. Its furry paws allow it to walk on ice in search of food. The arctic fox has such keen hearing that it can precisely locate the position of prey under the snow. When it finds prey, it pounces and punches through the snow to catch its victim. Its fur changes color with the seasons: in the winter it is white to blend in with snow, while in the summer it is brown
The arctic fox tends to be active from early September to early May. The gestation period is 52 days. Litters tend to average 5–8 kits but may be as many as 25 (the largest in the order Carnivora). Both the mother and the father help to raise their young. The females leave the family and form their own groups and the males stay with the family.
Foxes tend to form monogamous pairs in the breeding season. Litters are born in the early summer and the parents raise the young in a large den. Dens can be complex underground networks, housing many generations of foxes. Young from a previous year's litter may stay with the parents to help rear younger siblings. The kits are initially brownish; as they become older they turn white. Their coat of fur also changes color when summer arrives, but in winter it is white.
The arctic fox will generally eat any small animal it can find: lemmings, voles, hares, owls, eggs, and carrion, etc. Lemmings are the most common prey. A family of foxes can eat dozens of lemmings each day. During April and May, the arctic fox also preys on ringed seal pups when the young animals are confined to a snow den and are relatively helpless. Fish beneath the ice are also part of its diet. They also consume berries and seaweed and may thus be considered omnivores. It is a significant bird egg predator, excepting those of the largest tundra bird species. If there is an overabundance of food, the arctic fox will bury the surplus as a reserve. When its normal prey is scarce, the arctic fox scavenges the leftovers and even feces of larger predators, such as the polar bear, even though the bear's prey includes the arctic fox itself.
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