Arctic Foxes | God's World News

Arctic Foxes

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    A female Arctic fox plays at the Arctic Fox Captive Breeding Station near Oppdal, Norway. (Reuters/Lisi Niesner)
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    Veterinarian Marianne W. Furnes gives medication to an Arctic fox kit during a medical check-up. (Reuters/Lisi Niesner)
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    A shortage of lemmings is bad for Arctic foxes. (123RF)
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    An Arctic fox watches as conservation biologists Craig Jackson (left) and Kristine Ulvund set up bamboo sticks to prevent eagle attacks inside an enclosure at the Arctic Fox Captive Breeding Station. (Reuters/Lisi Niesner)
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    The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research runs the Arctic Fox Captive Breeding Station near Oppdal, Norway. (Reuters/Lisi Niesner)
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White fox, polar fox, snow fox, Arctic fox—whatever the name, these fluffy-tailed denizens of the frozen North are at home in their habitat. But in the wilds of Norway, traditional prey is scarce, and habitats are disappearing. Researchers want to help. But some of their methods are controversial.

A century ago, hunters seeking winter-white pelts made Arctic foxes nearly extinct across Scandinavia. Hunting bans and protections in the 1920s and 1930s helped animal numbers rebound.

Now other problems make Arctic fox survival difficult. Declining rodent populations and habitat loss are the main challenges.

Some researchers believe breeding-and-feeding programs can help prevent extinction for Arctic foxes.

Norway has fed Arctic foxes for nearly 20 years. Researchers support more than 30 feeding stations across the alpine wilderness. They stock the stations with dry dog food—a debated step in conservation circles.

Critics say feeding animals in places that can’t sustain them otherwise—like the Norwegian tundra without enough rodent presence—doesn’t make sense.

They also say feeding stations near human communities can be risky. Wild animals may begin associating people with food. Plus, when foxes cluster around the stations, diseases can spread among their population.

Craig Jackson of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research understands the concerns but doesn’t see another choice. “If the food is not there for them, what do you do?” he asks.

Since 2006, the institute has helped boost fox numbers from as few as 40 in Norway, Finland, and Sweden, to around 550 today. About 300 of those live in Norway.

“Without these conservation measures, the Arctic fox would surely have become extinct in Norway,” says Norwegian Environment Agency advisor Bjorn Rangbru.

Institute scientists raised nine kits in an outdoor enclosure 250 miles north of Oslo. They kept two kits for future breeding. Golden eagles snatched another two just weeks before their February release.

So five Arctic fox kits bounded off into snowy Hardangervidda National Park. They must dodge predators and hunt lemmings (polar rodents) to make it through long Scandinavian winters. There hasn’t been a good lemming year since 2021.

At the current rate, scientists say it could take another 25 years to reach the feeding-and-breeding program’s goal of 2,000 Arctic foxes running free through Scandinavia.

It’s an uphill battle. Project leader Kristine Ulvund says, “We need to get the populations up to a sustainable level before we stop feeding them.”

Why? God cares about foxes and lemmings and sparrows. (Matthew 10:31) But He cares most of all for you!

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