Climate change likely culprit as arctic fox faces extinction

Posted on 10 October 2008

The arctic fox, which is included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, now appears to be extinct in Finland and is down to extremely low levels throughout Scandinavia.
The arctic fox now appears to be extinct in Finland, and is down to extremely low levels in its remaining home in Scandinavia. The plight of the fox is highlighted by its inclusion in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. The arctic fox is classified as critically endangered (CR) in Finland, Norway and Sweden, and within the European Union.

The arctic fox, a smaller cousin of the red fox, was one of the first mammals to colonise Sweden and Finland at the end of the Ice Age. As the ice retreated it remained in the mountain tundra areas. High hunting pressure led to a drastic population decline in the early 1900's, from about ten thousand to less than one hundred individuals.

The arctic fox has not recovered despite seventy years of protection. Without the conservation work of WWF, this species would most likely have gone extinct in this region.

The major threats for this fox species are lack of rodents, and increased competition from the red fox which takes over dens and kills the arctic fox. The increased abundance of red fox in the tundra in northern regions is most likely caused by climate change. The increasing average temperature has increased the tree cover in the region, and with the trees come the red foxes.

Although it faces local extinction, the arctic fox is not considered endangered in other parts of its arctic range.