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Siberian Arctic fox on the move

May 29, 2018

Nowadays Arctic wildlife is often endangered by climate changes and human activities, and they are not always very well known. The arctic fox is a small animal, white in Winter, living around the Arctic circle. In Siberia it has been little studied for now, but miniaturization progresses make it possible to track it by satellite using Argos, with some surprises with respect to the distances it can cross.

The Artic fox with its Argos tag (credits A. Sokolov)

The Artic fox with its Argos tag (credits A.Sokolov)

The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is found in the regions around North pole, either in America or Eurasia, Greenland and Iceland. As some other of the fauna of the area, the species is threatened in some territories (like Scandinavia). Because of climate change, the tundra is shrinking; and red fox is appearing from the boreal zone, and tend to dominate on arctic fox.

The artic foxes in Siberia have been scarcely studied, and their movements are mostly unknown. Studies in Canada have shown that about ten percent of the population moves long ways, but the question in open in Siberia. There, they might have a seasonality in their movements (Southwards at Fall, Northwards at Spring), but the scale and regularity of such movements still have to be proven. Thus the idea of using satellite wildlife tracking technologies to follow their movements, especially since small Argos PTTs are now available (the weight of a beacon must not be over 3% of the animal’s).



Tracks of the arctic fox from Vortuka and back, with distances and speeds. Note that when it crosses “water” it is in fact iced. (Credits IEC “Arctic”)

Track of the arctic fox marked at long-term monitoring site Erkuta, around Polar Ural and back, across the Yamal peninsula to Gydan peninsula, with distances and speeds. Note that when it crosses “water” it is in fact iced at this time of the year. (Credits A.Sokolov)


On March, 28, 2017 an arctic fox was trapped by the local hunter Takuchi Laptander. Together with the research team of Arctic Research Station of Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology (Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences) leaded by Dr. Aleksandr Sokolov, the animal was equipped with a satellite collar (Argos PTT from Es-Pas Ltd) at the Erkuta long-term monitoring site (68.2°N; 68.9°E), Southern Yamal, Russia. After release, the fox had stayed close from where it was trapped for 12 days. Then it performed several longer trips: it moved West over the Baidaratskaya Bay and around Polar Ural for a trip of about 300 km where it had stayed for 10 days in close vicinity of several populated localities. Then, it returned to the vicinity of the capture location and later moved East, over the Obskaya Bay and North to Gydan Peninsula. Overall the probably non-breeding arctic fox travelled extensively both over land and sea ice, covering at least 1000 km (700 km in a period of 30 days), before the signals stopped on the 25th of July.



Aleksandr Sokolov, Natalya Sokolova, Dorothee Ehrich, Ivan Fufachev, Vasiliy Sokolov and Takuchi Laptander. 2017. Long-distance movements of the first Siberian Arctic Fox equipped with satellite collar // 5th International Arctic Fox Conference (Université du Québec à, Rimouski, Canada, 12-15 October 2017): Progr. and Abst. – P. 75.

This pilot study was supported by RFBR-Yamal grant No. 16-44-890108. Collar was produced by “Es-Pas” Ltd. (Moscow). Price of the collars and satellite data were covered by IEC “Arctic” of Yamal government.