I would have never thought on this last trip to Churchill, Manitoba, that we would be fortunate enough to see a red fox on the frozen tundra. But it was luckier still that we got to see an arctic fox too! They were both hunting in the same general area of the Hudson Bay rocky coastline. Unlike the red fox, the arctic fox was successful in its hunt for a lemming beneath the snow! Munch, munch.
This animal has adapted quite well to the harsh winter environment. With its lush fur and small appendages, the arctic fox is one of the smallest mammals that remain active above the snow surface during the long winter. It maintains its body temperature despite temperatures minus 20 degrees F and lower. In fact, it was minus 11 degrees F without the wind chill when I took these photos. The fox was obviously comfortable, but I was a tad chilly!
The arctic fox is the size of a large house cat and weighs about 10 pounds. It has a keen sense of smell and acute hearing, and such attributes serves it well to find lemmings, a major food source, moving under the snow. An arctic fox hunts from dusk to dawn. It prefers small mammals, but will eat insects, berries, and carrion too. In the winter, its diet consists of marine mammals, invertebrates, birds, and fish.
Unfortunately, these foxes have a high mortality rate. Parents frequently abandon their young. Adults can die from starvation and rabies. Although they have a potential lifespan of 10 years, only 1 in 25 lives past its fourth year. So it was quite a thrill to see this beautiful specimen as it scampered across the snowy landscape.