Arctic Fox Súðavík Iceland

The Arctic Fox, the Only Land Mammal Native to Iceland

This is the second in my series of blog posts about the wildlife of Iceland.

Arctic Fox Súðavík Iceland
Photo by David Andrew Graves

We’re not likely to see Arctic Foxes in the wild on this journey, but today we’re visiting the Arctic Fox Centre in Súðavík to learn about this fascinating and photogenic species.  The centre is devoted to research, education, and the promotion of sustainable wildlife tourism in Iceland.

If you saw my first blog post in this series (Wildlife in the Land of Ice and Fire), you know that the seas around Iceland are home to many marine mammals, including Humpback Whales, Orcas, and Gray and Harbor Seals.  But only one land mammal is native to Iceland – the Arctic Fox.  This species arrived in Iceland during the last ice age (more than 11,000 years ago), while humans didn’t settle on Iceland until about 1100 years ago.  Since humans arrived, they’ve been hunting the Arctic Fox – both for fur, and because of a perceived threat to livestock – although the foxes have been protected from hunting in a few regions of Iceland since 1994.  The Arctic Fox is an important apex predator in the ecosystems of Iceland.  In other arctic and near-arctic regions, this species eats mainly lemmings, but in Iceland there are no lemmings, and the Arctic Fox primarily consumes birds.

On our arrival at the centre, we learn that there are currently two rescued foxes in residence.  Each was orphaned when their parents were killed by hunters.  It’s the first time I’ve seen an Arctic Fox in person.  They’re smaller than I expected.  I’ve seen photos of foxes in winter, when their thick fur coats make them look plump and short-legged.  It’s summer now, and these animals look petite, slender, and long-legged.

Arctic Fox Súðavík Iceland

One of the two foxes is a very recent arrival, and only about six weeks old!

Arctic Fox Súðavík Iceland

She’s very fuzzy, and completely adorable.

Arctic Fox Súðavík Iceland

She spends a lot of time exploring her environment.

Arctic Fox Súðavík Iceland

The two foxes chase each other around, and clearly enjoy playing with each other.

Arctic Foxes Súðavík Iceland

Arctic Foxes Súðavík Iceland

The relationship between the two foxes seems quite tender and close.  A staff member mentions that she sees the older fox share his food with the younger one.  It’s tragic that these Arctic Foxes were orphaned, but it’s fortunate that they now have each other.

I’ve read that foxes (although not necessarily Arctic Foxes) were domesticated before wolves.  Seeing how affectionate, curious, and playful these animals are, it’s easy to understand how that might happen.

Arctic Foxes Súðavík Iceland

Having been orphaned and rescued, it’s doubtful that these foxes could ever be released back into the wild.  They’ve had lots of human contact, and they haven’t had an opportunity to learn the skills they would need to survive in the wild.  It’s likely that they will live out their lives as Ambassador Animals here at the Arctic Fox Centre, where visitors can learn about, and be inspired to care about this charismatic species.

I’ll be back soon with my final blog post on the wildlife of Iceland.

Arctic Fox Súðavík Iceland

 

4 thoughts on “”

  1. Hi ! Met you and your husband tonight at the Winchester Mystery House Wildlife event. You both were kind enough to share your table with us. Your pictures are beautiful ! Can’t wait to see your owl release pictures!
    Take care,
    Bobbie

    Like

  2. Hi Bobbie! Thanks for your kind words. It was a pleasure to meet you, and we enjoyed sharing the evening with you two. So wonderful to see the owls released. I hope they are doing well. Best, Carol Ann

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