Unlocking the mysteries of the Arctic fox
The Argos satellite telemetry system made it possible for a team of researchers led by Dominique Berteaux from the University of Québec in Rimouski to better understand the behavior of the mysterious Arctic fox in Canada’s Nunavut region, as revealed in a recent article in Le Monde.
The Arctic fox has always been difficult to observe. It is merely 50 cm high and weighs around 4 kilograms and lives in the Northernmost regions of the planet.
That is why Dominique Berteaux and his team worked to develop a lightweight (100 g) Argos collar with a long battery lifetime that is able to resist extremely cold temperatures.
Over five years, they equipped 85 Arctic foxes with the specially-designed Argos collars. Their research has revealed that this enigmatic animal can travel thousands of kilometers and stay away from its den for more than 38 days. Three types of behavior were identified by the research group, described as nomadic, migratory, and resident. Some of the foxes were labelled “commuters” by Dominique Berteaux and his team, due to the short day trips they take out onto the sea ice to find food.
- 27 JULY 2009 – captured as an adult on Bylot Island (Ear tags : Yellow-Green (left); Red-Blue (right)), collar #92660 (collar failed, no data)
- 25 JUNE 2010 – resighted on Bylot Island with 2 cubs (no male seen); recaptured, collar #99886; stayed on Bylot Island during the winter 2010-2011
- 24 JUNE 2011 – resighted on Bylot Island with 11 cubs (her new male was shot on Bylot Island by a hunter from Pond Inlet on 15 June 2011); recaptured on Bylot Island, collar #92243
- 23 MARCH 2012 – left Bylot Island
- 01 MAY 2012 – reached Southampton Island, passed near Coral Harbour and settled in a new home range on Southampton Island (about 1000 km from her previous den on Bylot Island)
- 09 DECEMBER 2012 – left her home range but still stayed on Southampton Island
- 06 MARCH 2013 – collar stopped working
- 23 MARCH 2013 – was trapped near Coral Harbour
Article in Le Monde (in French)
Copyright photo Nicolas Bradette