The Arctic fox belongs to the dog family (Canidae), and is the only species in its genus. We do not know exactly how long there have been Arctic foxes in Svalbard, but they probably reached the islands some time during the last 10 000 years, after the ice retreated at the end of the last Ice Age. Arctic foxes are now found in the tundra of North America, Eurasia, Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard and in alpine regions of Scandinavia.
There are two colour variants of the Arctic fox, blue and white. The winter coat of a blue fox varies from light blue-grey to dark brown, while the summer coat is chocolate-brown. The white coloured fox is only truly white in winter, and in summer its back and legs are dark brown and its belly and flanks yellowish-white in colour. The blue form is most often found along the coast and on smaller islands.
Even though the Arctic fox has been totally protected in Norway since 1930, the situation for the mainland population is now critical. The species is classed as endangered in Norway's Red List. Arctic foxes are totally protected on Jan Mayen and Bjørnøya, but may still be trapped in the rest of Svalbard, except in protected areas. The population density in Svalbard is relatively high when compared to the alpine regions of Scandinavia. The Arctic fox was eradicated on Jan Mayen in the 1930s as a result of trapping.
There are no small rodents in Svalbard, except in a limited area west of Longyearbyen. Food supplies for Arctic foxes appear to be more stable in the archipelago than in other areas where they are more dependent on small rodents. The population is therefore relatively stable. Arctic foxes will eat whatever is available, from carrion and refuse to prey they catch themselves. Food is far more available in the summer, when foxes eat mainly seabirds, geese and eggs, reindeer carcasses and ptarmigan. In winter, food is in much shorter supply, and the foxes survive on seal and reindeer carcasses, ptarmigan, food they have catched and refuse from the settlements.
I think it is pretty interesting reading about animals in Arctic areas.
Another animal in Svalbard is the Arctic reindeer, very short and stocky with short legs which is needed in such a cold climate. I have seen it with my own eyes. It is just so amazing that they can survive the Winter in the Arctic.
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