What Do Arctic Foxes Eat?

Written by Volia Schubiger
Published: October 7, 2022
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Very few species can survive in the harsh environment of the Arctic. The Arctic fox happens to be one of them! Arctic foxes are also known as white foxes, polar foxes, or snow foxes. These foxes are generally found in the Northern Hemisphere, primarily in the Arctic or alpine tundras. Considering that they are built to survive cold weather, it makes sense. They have thick fur and long tails, so their bodies are built to withstand the cold. Although they live in a region with temperatures as low as –30°F, Arctic foxes can maintain their core temperature. This is thanks to adaptations like their short muzzles, short legs, and densely furred feet.

Are you interested in learning more about this fascinating animal? Want to learn about what Arctic foxes eat and how they survive? Let’s find out about all of that and more!

What Do Arctic Foxes Eat?

Arctic foxes are not true carnivores and are instead classified as omnivores because they eat both meat and plants.

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Arctic foxes eat a diet that consists mainly of lemmings, other rodents, voles, hares, birds, eggs, fish, and carrion. They are classified as omnivores since they eat both meat and plants. Additionally, they consume carcasses left behind by larger predators such as wolves and polar bears. When food is scarce, they will also eat their own feces in order to survive. Depending on where the Arctic fox lives, the species’ diet varies. For instance, Canadian and Icelandic foxes prey primarily on flying birds. Besides eating meat, Arctic foxes eat plants and berries, which is why they’re classified as omnivores. 

Litters of ringed seal pups are also preyed upon by the Arctic fox between April and May when they are relatively helpless inside their snow dens. As a major predator of bird eggs, this fox also consumes all species of bird eggs except for the largest species of tundra bird. In order to survive harsh winters and food shortages, Arctic foxes either hoard food or store body fat. During periods of surplus food, the Arctic fox digs a hole to bury it to have for a later time. 

In addition, Arctic foxes contribute to the Arctic ecosystem through their diet. It was discovered in a study conducted on Arctic foxes as ecosystem engineers that foxes play a key role in maintaining Arctic tundra biodiversity. In the soil surrounding fox dens, there was a higher concentration of nutrients than in the soil near nearby control sites. On a local scale, foxes improve nutrient cycling as an ecosystem service. The result is a more diverse landscape, which in turn contributes to increased plant diversity on the tundra, which impacts herbivore dispersal.

Complete List Of What Arctic Foxes Eat

As opportunistic feeders, Arctic foxes feed on anything they find. Their diet includes both alive and dead animals. Additionally, this means that they have a very diverse diet as well.

Here is a complete list of what Arctic foxes eat: 

A large portion of the Arctic fox diet consists of lemmings and white geese. The existence of these animals is considered essential to them. In addition, Arctic foxes may also consume insects and berries as part of their diet. During times when food is hard to find, Arctic foxes have even been known to steal eggs from white geese and other birds in order to survive. 

How Do Arctic Foxes Hunt & Forage For Food?

Arctic Fox on snow

An Arctic fox will stay low to the ground while hunting in order to get a better sense of where its prey is located.

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Arctic foxes heavily rely on hunting and catching prey to supplement their diet. However, the majority of their prey lies beneath the snow, making it difficult for them to catch it. Therefore, they have developed an inventive technique for finding and capturing their prey under the snow before killing and eating them.

As a result of their coat changing color with the season, arctic foxes blend in well with the surroundings. When it’s winter, they are white so that they blend in with the snow, and when it’s summer, they are brown or gray. Therefore, they can sneak up on their prey without being noticed.

It is common for Arctic foxes to inspect the snow with their noses close to the ground. In addition to their acute sense of hearing, they will also use other senses to monitor their prey’s movements. In order to break through the snow, the Arctic fox pounces directly up and dives directly into the spot of potential prey. They then use their front paws to help them break through the snow and grab ahold of their prey. 

How Much Do Arctic Foxes Eat?

The amount of food an arctic fox eats is not well known, so it is difficult to predict. Although in some instances, it has been reported that a family of 11 arctic foxes may eat up to 60 rodents per day during the summer months when the rodent population is at its peak. As mentioned above, food is often buried by these animals to be consumed later or fed to their young when there is an abundance of it. Among the main characteristics of Arctic foxes is the fact that they store excess food in their dens or under stones. There have been reports of them storing 100 seabirds or storing enough food for one fox to eat for an entire autumn season.

What Do Baby Arctic Foxes Eat?

The baby arctic fox is called a kit! In the early stages of their lives, foxes don’t accompany their parents on hunting expeditions. When the father goes out to hunt or scavenge for food, the mother stays with them to protect them from predators. Weaning starts as soon as arctic foxes grow teeth, which is around 4 weeks old. They’re fully weaned by 9 weeks. 

Eventually, the baby foxes are ready to hunt alongside their mother. In an environment where lemmings are plentiful, the cubs can hunt for food easily with their mothers. They can also feed themselves with white goose eggs. It is relatively easy for them to get their paws on them. It is even possible for parents to hide any leftover white geese eggs for their children later as a source of food. 

To help the baby foxes reach maturity, hiding food and storing it for later is imperative. The survival rate of cubs can be very low; in years with low food supplies, none may survive.

Do Any Animals Prey On Arctic Foxes?

Arctic foxes are no longer able to blend in as well with their background as climate change continues to reduce the coverage of the snow.

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Despite being adapted to the harsh conditions of the arctic tundra, the Arctic fox does not get off easy in other respects. There are still many predators that the Arctic fox needs to be aware of at all times. So what animals are likely to prey upon the Arctic fox? Arctic foxes are preyed upon by wolves, grizzly bears, golden eagles, red foxes, and polar bears, among others. It’s interesting to note that most of their predators kill arctic foxes, so they don’t compete for food with them.  

One of the most notable predators for them is the red fox. Even though they belong to the same family, red foxes have become one of the greatest threats to arctic foxes in recent years. Consequently, Arctic foxes have become endangered due to predation from red foxes. With reduced snow cover because of climate change, arctic foxes are less effective at camouflaging, and red foxes are gaining power thanks to this. 

Red foxes attack arctic foxes due to the fact that they are competing for the same prey resources. The red foxes benefit from this situation because they will be able to feed on the arctic foxes, and they will be able to eliminate competitors for their prey as well.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © rokopix/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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