Red Fox and Arctic Fox

Meet Alaska's smaller canid species, the red fox and Arctic fox. They are the smaller cousins to the wolf and coyote in the family Canidae. While in the same family as wolves and coyotes, they have a very different hunting style. Back to animal directory.

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red fox

LIFE SPAN: 15 years in captivity.

RANGE: Red fox are found throughout most of Alaska south of the Brooks Range, except for some of the Aleutian islands and islands of Southeast Alaska.

SIZE: Adults weigh between 6-15 pounds.

PHYSICAL FEATURES: Red fox are identified by their white-tipped tails and black legs, regardless of their coat color. Many variations of coat color exist, from red (most common) to silver or black. There is also a cross coloration, a mix in color between red and darker fur across the shoulders. The red fox does not change coat color seasonally.

FOOD: The red fox is highly omnivorous. They prefer to eat voles but will also eat small mammals, birds, eggs, insects, vegetation and carrion. The fox caches (stores) excess food when hunting is good and will remember cache locations and return later if extra food resources are needed.

BEHAVIOR: The red fox is a member of the family Canidae, the dog family. They are different from other members of this family in that they do not outrun prey as a preferred method. Wolves rely on endurance to chase and tire prey. Although fox can sprint at 30 mph for short distances, they rely on stealth and pouncing to catch prey. Fox will circle potential victims and jump 3 feet in the air to pin their prey down with their paws.

CONSERVATION: Red fox populations are stable in Alaska.

PLANT NOTES: Fox prefer to den in areas with vegetation cover, particularly in riparian (stream edge) areas.


Arctic Fox

LIFE SPAN: 15 years in captivity.

RANGE: The Arctic fox is found in northern and western Alaska, usually up to several hundred miles inland. Their range extends down into the Aleutian Islands.

SIZE: Under 10 pounds, with a tail as long as their body.

PHYSICAL FEATURES: Their short ears and legs, along with thick fur, help to retain body heat. Their tails are thick and furry to wrap around the face while sleeping. The Arctic fox has a seasonal change in coat color, with a white winter coat and a molt (shedding and regrowth) to a brown coat in the summer.

FOOD: The Arctic fox preys on small mammals and birds. They will scavenge fish and the kills of other larger predators when they can, such as the kills left behind by polar bears. They are often seen following polar bears to scavenge their kills. They use their excellent hearing to locate small, hidden prey beneath layers of snow, pouncing on them as they punch through snow.

BEHAVIOR: They breed in March/April. Females are called vixens, males are called dogs. An average litter of 7 kits is born in May/June, with the parents caring for them through summer.

CONSERVATION: Common throughout their range. They cause losses in seabird colonies on some islands, particularly for those species that lay unprotected eggs on ledges or the ground.

PLANT NOTES: When live prey are scarce, the Arctic fox will feed on berries or even seaweed in marine environments. Their prey (small mammals and birds) are very reliant on plants for food and shelter.