The arctic fox is a tough animal that can withstand harsh winter conditions. But a warming climate has led to challenges that are far more difficult to tackle than 50 degrees below zero and weeks without food.
“The arctic fox is tough. It lives in an environment that many of us shiver just to think about”, says WWF Norway’s predator specialist, Sverre Lundemo. Year round, the arctic fox lives on Norway’s mountains and in the Arctic, even when the day consists of considerably more darkness than light, the wind howls and the temperature creeps far down the thermometer. But it’s not the harsh winter making the fox’s life miserable.
“The biggest challenge for the arctic fox today is probably climate change”, says Lundemo. “Being a specialist in extreme conditions, with the ability to stay warm at -50C and survive without food for several weeks, doesn’t help if its habitat is getting warmer. It loses its competitive advantage”.
As the north warms, several species are moving into the arctic fox’s habitat. The biggest competitor is the arctic fox’s close cousin, the red fox. “The red fox is coming ever further up the mountains and it is both bigger and stronger than the arctic fox. It’s not just a serious competitor for food, but it can also take over arctic fox dens”, says Lundemo.
Strictly protected species
Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment announced this January that the arctic fox should be a priority species under the Nature Diversity Act in Norway. This means that it receives the Act’s strictest protection and that Norwegian authorities must actively ensure that wild arctic foxes can still be found in the country. Together with the wolf, the arctic fox is the most endangered terrestrial predator in Norway. Both are listed as critically endangered on the Norwegian Red List.
What can be done?
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with wide-ranging effects on all Arctic life. The solutions, however, are global in nature. To slow the most extreme impacts of climate change, nations must first reduce their dependence on oil, coal and gas. We should instead focus on renewable energy sources such as wind, water, sun and geothermal. WWF’s Energy Report shows that it’s possible for the world’s energy to be 100 percent renewable by 2050.