Biology and behavior

White Fox / Arctic Fox

The White or Arctic fox belongs to the family of the canidae and is a predator. This species exists in two different color versions. In the winter, white foxes are completely white; in the summer, their fur changes to grayish-brown. Arctic foxes have a pale brown, grey or shimmery blue fur in the winter and in the summer, a fur similar in color to that of the White fox. With an average shoulder height of 30 cm and a weight of between 4,5 and 8 kg, the white fox is somewhat smaller than the European Red fox. No other predator – with the exception of the polar bear – is so well adapted to life in cold climates as the Arctic fox. This species can be found throughout the entire North Pole area and lives primarily in Tundra landscapes with few trees, short summers and long winters with permanent snow. Arctic foxes do not hibernate and have been observed hunting at temperatures of -45°C.


Used to scant habitats, Arctic foxes are not choosy with regard to their food and also highly adaptable and flexible. Whenever possible, they will eat rodents such as mice and lemming. In coastal areas, they will hunt brooding birds, eggs and chicks. The foxes, however, also feed on insects, berries, and carrion as well as on the leftovers of large predators. Arctic foxes are blessed with an excellent sense of smell which enables them to find food beneath the snow blanket. They are, however, also known to sneak up to human settlements, e.g. research stations, and to search through garbage for food.


Arctic foxes live alone – except when they bring up their young. Small groups can consist of one grown male and up to three females belonging to the same family. During the bringing up of the young, the fox pairs or small groups claim territories of 9 to 55 km². The size of the territory depends on the availability of food and dens. As a rule, only the highest-ranking female fox has young. In the spring, she has 3 to 9 pups that are weaned at between 6 to 7 weeks of age, after which they remain with their mother for a longer period of time. The other females in the group help to bring up the young but the males also play an important role. It brings the vixen and the pups food and defends the den against enemies. The ranking order has a major influence on group behavior and reproduction. During the upbringing of their young, the group often changes dens or rearranges existing dens in order to protect the pups from enemies.


Otherwise, the Arctic fox is nomadic and roams through large areas, often covering distances of hundreds of kilometers. During this period, the fox also wanders across pack ice and moves many kilometers away from the coast. In a study, a marked Arctic fox was observed to have wandered 9,000 km away from its place of birth.


Survival artists

© kingarfer /

Further information


Please find beautiful photos and a short video clip on Arctic foxes in the wild, here:

ARKive video - Arctic fox - overview