Summertime is a fun time for one young arctic fox! Read her story and you’ll see.
by Anya Arctic Fox, as told to Elizabeth Schleichert
photos by Jasper Doest
Meet My Family!
Hi, I’m Anya, an arctic fox. That’s me, nuzzling my mom. See the furry, squirmy pups under her? Those are my brothers and sisters— all eight of them—busy nursing. (Dad is off hunting up some lunch.) We pups are three weeks old and have just started venturing out of our den. Wow! Who knew there was a big, bright world out here?
Before I go on, let me tell you about my beginnings. I was born in an underground den in May. At first, I was a teeny-tiny ball of fox fuzz! But over the next few weeks, I nursed and nursed and grew bigger and stronger. At last, I’m ready to have some fun!
Home, Brr, Home
As their name says, arctic foxes dwell in the waaay Far North (see yellow areas on map above). They may also hunt on the ice that forms along the shore.
A Flying Fox?
I spend hours practicing my pouncing. Adult foxes often get prey this way. So I’m working on my grown-up moves. When I spy something in motion, such as a feather blowing in the breeze, I spring way off the ground. Then— whumpf!—got it!
Catch of the Day
Yay! I get excited when Mom races home with something good to eat. Today it’s a tasty-looking gosling. Mom charged into the nearby goose colony and, with lightning-quick bites, nabbed a few unlucky young. Then she carried her prizes, one by one, back to us hungry pups.
Fox Food Fight
My brother Arvid decides this goose is his. Hey, I say, no way! That leads to a serious tug of war. Who wins? Nobody! We each end up having to share, which we foxes hate to do. Still, with so many geese and ducks nearby, we all get plenty to eat. Dad promises to give us hunting lessons soon. Come fall, we pups will be on our own, so we’d better listen up!
What’s my favorite thing to do? Laze about in the sun (above). And, this time of year, that’s easy to do. You see, during most of the summer, the arctic sun never sets. It’s daylight 24/7! By the way, check out my charcoal-and-cream colored summer coat. It helps me blend in with the rocky tundra (treeless plain). Come fall, I’ll grow a new coat—thicker and white. It will match the snowcovered wintry land and keep me warm when temperatures plunge below zero. We foxes “dress” for the season!
My littermates and I have a blast play-fighting—that is, pretending to fight. This time, I get the upper paw while wrestling with Astrid. We chase each other, nip, growl, and roll around. Not to boast or anything, but I outfox her every time! Play-fighting lets us pups work out who is top dog among us—and teaches us skills we’ll need when we grow up, too.
Since we’re frisky foxes, sometimes we get a bit out of hand. Today Mom gets mad when we keep leaping on her tail. She turns on my brother Anders and lets him know she has had it with his rascally antics!
Give It a Rest
After all that wild-and-crazy chasing and playing, we pups are worn out. Time for a snooze. Soon enough, we’ll be up and at it again! Gosh, I wish summer would last forever, don’t you?
- About the size of house cats, arctic foxes look small and delicate. But they’re incredibly tough survivors.
- They are curious and bold and can be friendly toward humans.
- A mother fox often uses the same den year after year to give birth to her pups. Some fox dens have been in use for several hundred years!
- A litter may have as few as 2 or as many as 20 pups. More pups are born in years when food is plentiful.
- Some arctic foxes don’t have the familiar white coats in winter and brownish ones in summer. Instead, these so-called "blue" arctic foxes have light brown or gray-colored fur in winter. In summer, they’re often nearly black with a bluish tint.
- The coats of arctic foxes are among the warmest of all mammals. They keep the foxes toasty even when temperatures plunge to 40 degrees below zero or more.
- More and more red foxes have been moving north into arctic fox territory. So in places the two cousins are competing for the same kinds of food.
- The scientific name for the arctic fox is Alopex lagopus. It means "hare-footed." That’s because these foxes have thick fur on the pads of their feet—just as arctic hares do.