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The Arctic fox returns to Finland after 20 years of absence

Dopo venti anni di assenza le fototrappole del Wwf hanno ripreso due volpi artiche che lasciano intravedere un futuro per la specie in Scandinavia.

The last sighting of the enchanting snout of an Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) dated back to 1996. But this small Nordic mammal has been caught on camera by WWF Finland for the first time in 20 years.

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A couple of Arctic foxes photographed in Finland thanks to the WWF’s camera traps © WWF/Metsähallitus

The decline of the Arctic fox in Scandinavia

The species, which has adapted to rigid Arctic temperatures, boasts incredible camouflage skills and lives in the circumpolar area of the northern hemisphere. Despite the fact that Arctic foxes are still abundant in Russia, Canada and Alaska, they’re gradually disappearing from Greenland, Iceland and Scandinavia.

Climate change and loss of prey

According to a study conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the causes of the fox species’ decline are linked to climate change, which is affecting the Arctic more than other regions. Rising temperatures lead to milder winters, which have a knock-on effect on biodiversity and cause the tundra to be replaced by boreal forests, unfit for Arctic foxes – resulting in habitat loss. In addition, climate change is also causing a decline in lemmings and voles, the foxes’ main prey.

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Arctic foxes’ white fur allows them to camouflage themselves amidst ice in winter and turns brown/grey during summer © Arterra/UIG via Getty Images

Conflicts with red foxes

Another cause of the species’ decline is increasing competition with red foxes, which are larger, more aggressive and adaptable than their Arctic cousins. Many cases of red foxes preying on Arctic fox cubs and adults have been documented over the years.

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“Arctic foxes have a habit of building dens where their ancestors did, and they remain identifiable even after decades of disuse,” explains Petteri Tolvanen of WWF Finland © WWF/Metsähallitus

A new couple of Arctic foxes in Finland

WWF’s camera traps have captured hundreds of daily images of a couple of Arctic foxes – “one white and one dark-furred,” says Petteri Tolvanen, Programme Manager for WWF Finland. “The two were seen playing together, and because the breeding season was close, we could infer that they were attempting to breed”. Unfortunately the couple hasn’t bred, but the fact they’ve returned to an area once roamed by plenty of Arctic foxes, occupying old dens, gives us a glimmer of hope for the future.

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