When people think of foxes, the orange urban and rural dwellers are typically what come to mind. However, they aren’t the only one of their kind because there’s also the Vulpes lagopus, better known to most as the Arctic fox. You don’t tend to see these creatures as much because they make their habitats in more Arctic regions. How exactly do they survive in climates like this, though, especially when it’s winter?
What temperatures can an Arctic fox survive in?
Plenty of humans struggle to cope with the cold, even when they have coats and blankets to keep themselves warm. Arctic foxes, though, are accustomed to lower temperatures, with these creatures able to survive even if it plummets below -50 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s hard to comprehend spending even a minute in such icy conditions, let alone living in it permanently. However, it’s all that Arctic foxes know. If they were to live further south in temperatures that humans consider ordinary, it might be too much for them to handle.
How do Arctic foxes handle the cold?
You don’t spend a lifetime living in temperatures this cold unless your body has adapted to cope with it. In the case of Arctic foxes, their small stature makes a big difference because there’s less surface area for the cold air to affect. Their features are typically short and hidden amongst a thick coat of fur, which traps air and maintains their body heat. These foxes also have fluffy tails that act as a blanket while they sleep to ensure the cold can’t get in.
What features make it easier to live in snow?
Low temperatures and snow go hand in hand when winter comes around. That means Arctic foxes need to do more than survive the cold; they have to cope with the snow too. Fortunately, they’ve evolved several features to deal with that, including countercurrent blood circulation. This lowers the amount of blood flow to their feet, which also have thick fur over the footpads. Collectively, these elements ensure that the foxes can walk on the snow and avoid frostbite.
Anything else they do to survive the cold?
Although an Arctic fox’s tail can help to keep them warm, that alone isn’t always enough when it’s particularly cold outside. That’s why these creatures often burrow under the snow to sleep, as this protects them from the wind and offers added insulation. What’s more, their metabolism changes depending on the season, with their rate some 25% slower in the winter compared to summer. This helps them stay warm while also reducing the need for food, which can be hard to come by during this time of year.
Arctic foxes are adorable creatures, and if you ever find yourself so far north, you may be fortunate enough to come across one. Just note that if you do encounter one, they’ll probably be coping with the conditions much better than you. After all, that’s what their bodies are made for, so it would be a bit of an issue if they weren’t.