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Arctic Foxes at the Aquarium

Arctic Foxes at the Aquarium
The Aquarium has welcomed two male Arctic fox pups that are now on view in the Aquarium's Molina Animal Care Center.  | © Robin Riggs

Animals

October 24, 2011
The public can watch the foxes grow in the exhibit area outside Lorikeet Forest

The Aquarium has welcomed two male Arctic fox pups that are now on view in the Aquarium’s Molina Animal Care Center. The two brothers are part of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s new Arctic & Antarctic: Our Polar Regions in Peril exhibition, which gives the public the opportunity to see polar animals up close while learning about what can be done to protect their habitats.

The Arctic foxes arrived at six weeks old as pups. Arctic fox babies are known as pups or kits. A litter usually has about seven kits but may contain up to fifteen. The Aquarium’s foxes have grown significantly since their arrival and are now almost fully grown. The Arctic fox is an incredibly resilient animal that can live in temperatures as low as -59° F and as warm as temperatures we experience in Southern California. They are found in the Arctic and alpine tundra regions, from coastal Alaska and Greenland to Scandinavia and Russia.

It survives in extreme temperatures thanks to its thick fur, furry soles, short ears, and short muzzle. During the winter months, white phase Arctic fox have white coats that serve as camouflage against the vast stretches of snow and ice in their native Arctic region. When the seasons change, their coats change to a brown or blue-gray appearance that allows them to blend in with the summer’s landscape. Blue phase fox, more common in the species’ southern habitat range, remain charcoal-colored year round. Young of each color phase may occur in the same litter.

These mammals have keen hearing and normally feed mainly on rodents along with birds, and even fish. When prey is scarce in the winter, these foxes often follow polar bears to eat their leftover scraps, sometimes traveling great distances. Their average lifespan in the wild is three to six years. As an adult, an Arctic fox can weigh up to seventeen pounds.

Climate change poses a threat to the Arctic fox, impacting their habitat and food sources. Consequently the International Union for Conservation of Nature has included them on their Red List of Threatened Species and on a list of ten species that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

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