Polar Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 8, pp 1021–1026 | Cite as

Northern nomads: ability for extensive movements in adult arctic foxes

  • Arnaud TarrouxEmail author
  • Dominique BerteauxEmail author
  • Joël Bêty
Original Paper


In July 2008 we outfitted reproductively active adult arctic foxes with satellite tracking collars on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada and recorded their movements over a complete annual cycle. We present the tracking data from two individuals, one female and one male, who traveled extensively from February to July 2009, covering minimum distances of 4,599 and 2,193 km, respectively. We recorded high and sustained travel rates on both land and sea ice that reached 90 km/day for the female and 88 km/day for the male. Our data confirm that arctic foxes can move extensively and demonstrate sustained travel rates that are 1.5 times those previously measured for the species. Our study is the first presenting detailed year-round satellite tracking of adult arctic foxes and has implications for our understanding of navigational abilities, foraging ecology, trophic interactions with lemming populations, and genetic population structure of arctic foxes.


Alopex Argos satellite tracking Bylot Island Dispersal Vulpes lagopus Sea ice 



We thank (alphabetical order) A. Bourbeau-Lemieux, M.-C. Cadieux, C. Cameron, A. Desjardins, D. Duchesne, G. Gauthier, F. Racine, E. Tremblay, for help with data collection. N. Lecomte and M. Fast provided valuable comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We thank D. Piepenburg, one anonymous reviewer, N. Pamperin, and A. Angerbjörn for providing useful suggestions on this manuscript. We are indebted to the Parks Canada Agency and to the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization for allowing us to work in Sirmilik National Park of Canada. This study was supported by (alphabetical order) Canada Foundation for Innovation, Canada Research Chairs, Environment Canada, Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Network of Centers of Excellence of Canada ArcticNet, Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, Parks Canada, Polar Continental Shelf Program, Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR), and Université Laval. Capture techniques and immobilization procedures were approved by the UQAR Animal Care Committee (permit # CPA32-08-62) and field research by the Joint Park Management Committee of Sirmilik National Park of Canada (permit # SNP-2007-1070 amended on 8 May 2008). This is PCSP contribution # 005-10.


  1. Andersen M, Derocher AE, Wiig Ø, Aars J (2008) Movements of two Svalbard polar bears recorded using geographical positioning system satellite transmitters. Polar Biol 31:905–911CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angerbjörn A, Tannerfeldt M, Erlinge S (1999) Predator-prey relationships: arctic foxes and lemmings. J Anim Ecol 68:34–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Audet AM, Robbins CB, Larivière S (2002) Alopex lagopus. Mamm Species 713:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bêty J, Gauthier G, Korpimäki E, Giroux J-F (2002) Shared predators and indirect trophic interactions: lemming cycles and Arctic-nesting geese. J Anim Ecol 71:88–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beyer HL (2004) Hawth’s analysis tools for ArcGIS. Accessed 30 July 2009
  6. Caldwell IR, Nams VO (2006) A compass without a map: tortuosity and orientation of eastern painted turtles (Chrysemys picta picta) released in unfamiliar territory. Can J Zool 84:1129–1137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Canadian Ice Service (2009) Canadian digital regional ice charts. , Environment Canada, Ottawa. Accessed 20 August 2009
  8. Careau V, Lecomte N, Bêty J, Giroux J-F, Gauthier G, Berteaux D (2008) Hoarding of pulsed resources: temporal variations in egg-caching by arctic fox. Ecoscience 15:268–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chesemore DL (1968a) Distribution and movements of white foxes in northern and western Alaska. Can J Zool 46:849–854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chesemore DL (1968b) Notes on the food habits of Arctic foxes in northern Alaska. Can J Zool 46:1127–1130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. CLS (2008) Argos user’s manual, CLS America Inc, Largo. Accessed 15 June 2009
  12. Dalén L, Götherström A, Tannerfeldt M, Angerbjörn A (2002) Is the endangered Fennoscandian arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) population genetically isolated? Biol Conserv 105:171–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dalén L, Fuglei E, Hersteinsson P, Kapel CMO, Roth JD, Samelius G, Tannerfeldt M, Angerbjörn A (2005) Population history and genetic structure of a circumpolar species: the arctic fox. Biol J Linn Soc 84:79–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eberhardt LE, Hanson WC (1978) Long-distance movements of arctic foxes tagged in northern Alaska. Can Field-Nat 92:386–389Google Scholar
  15. Eberhardt LE, Garrott RA, Hanson WC (1983) Winter movements of Arctic foxes, Alopex lagopus, in a petroleum development area. Can Field-Nat 97:66–70Google Scholar
  16. Eide NE, Jepsen JU, Prestrud P (2004) Spatial organization of reproductive arctic foxes Alopex lagopus: responses to changes in spatial and temporal availability of prey. J Anim Ecol 73:1056–1068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elmhagen B, Tannerfeldt M, Verucci P, Angerbjörn A (2000) The arctic fox (Alopex lagopus): an opportunistic specialist. J Zool 251:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frafjord K, Prestrud P (1992) Home range and movements of Arctic foxes Alopex lagopus in Svalbard. Polar Biol 12:519–526Google Scholar
  19. Frame PF, Hik DS, Cluff HD, Paquet PC (2004) Long foraging movement of a denning tundra wolf. Arctic 57:196–203Google Scholar
  20. Fuglei E, Ims RA (2008) Global warming and effects on the arctic fox. Sci Prog 91:175–191CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Fuglei E, Øritsland NA, Prestrud P (2003) Local variation in arctic fox abundance on Svalbard, Norway. Polar Biol 26:93–98Google Scholar
  22. Gagnon C-A, Berteaux D (2009) Integrating traditional ecological knowledge and ecological science: a question of scale. Ecol Soc 14:19Google Scholar
  23. Garrott RA, Eberhardt LE (1987) Arctic fox. In: Novak M, Baker JA, Obbard ME, Malloch B (eds) Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America. Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario, pp 395–406Google Scholar
  24. Geffen E, Waidyaratne S, Dalén L, Angerbjörn A, Vila C, Hersteinsson P, Fuglei E, White PA, Goltsman M, Kapel CMO, Wayne RK (2007) Sea ice occurrence predicts genetic isolation in the Arctic fox. Mol Ecol 16:4241–4255CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Gilg O, Hanski I, Sittler B (2003) Cyclic dynamics in a simple vertebrate predator–prey community. Science 302:866–868CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Hanski I, Hansson L, Henttonen H (1991) Specialist predators, generalist predators, and the microtine rodent cycle. J Anim Ecol 60:353–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hanski I, Henttonen H, Korpimäki E, Oksanen L, Turchin P (2001) Small-rodent dynamics and predation. Ecology 82:1505–1520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harvey F (2008) A primer of GIS: fundamental geographic and cartographic concepts. The Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Ims RA, Andreassen HP (2000) Spatial synchronization of vole population dynamics by predatory birds. Nature 408:194–196CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Krebs CJ, Kenney AJ, Gilbert S, Danell K, Angerbjörn A, Erlinge S, Bromley RG, Shank C, Carriere S (2002) Synchrony in lemming and vole populations in the Canadian Arctic. Can J Zool 80:1323–1333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Macpherson AH (1968) Apparent recovery of translocated arctic fox. Can Field-Nat 82:287–289Google Scholar
  32. Norén K, Angerbjörn A, Hersteinsson P (2009) Population structure in an isolated Arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus, population: the impact of geographical barriers. Biol J Linn Soc 97:18–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Northcott T (1975) Long-distance movement of an arctic fox in Newfoundland. Can Field-Nat 89:464–465Google Scholar
  34. Pamperin N, Follmann E, Person B (2008) Sea-ice use by arctic foxes in northern Alaska. Polar Biol 31:1421–1426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Roth JD (2002) Temporal variability in arctic fox diet as reflected in stable-carbon isotopes; the importance of sea ice. Oecologia 133:70–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Samelius G (2006) Foraging behaviours and population dynamics of arctic foxes. PhD Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, SaskatoonGoogle Scholar
  37. Sdobnikov VM (1940) Experiments on mass marking of arctic foxes [in Russian]. Probl Arktiki 12:106–110Google Scholar
  38. Strand O, Landa A, Linnell JDC, Zimmermann B, Skogland T (2000) Social organization and parental behavior in the arctic fox. J Mamm 81:223–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Szor G, Berteaux D, Gauthier G (2008) Finding the right home: distribution of food resources and terrain characteristics influence selection of denning sites and reproductive dens in arctic foxes. Polar Biol 31:351–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tang C, Ross C, Yao T, Petrie B, DeTracey B, Dunlap E (2004) The circulation, water masses and sea-ice of Baffin Bay. Prog Oceanogr 63:183–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tannerfeldt M, Angerbjörn A (1996) Life history strategies in a fluctuating environment: establishment and reproductive success in the arctic fox. Ecography 19:209–220Google Scholar
  42. Wabakken P, Sand H, Kojola I, Zimmermann B, Arnemo JM, Pedersen HC, Liberg O (2007) Multistage, long-range natal dispersal by a global positioning system-collared Scandinavian wolf. J Wildl Manag 71:1631–1634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wiig Ø, Born EW, Pedersen LT (2003) Movements of female polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the East Greenland pack ice. Polar Biol 26:509–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wrigley RE, Hatch DRM (1976) Arctic fox migrations in Manitoba. Arctic 29:147–158Google Scholar
  45. Ydenberg RC (1987) Nomadic predators and geographical synchrony in microtine population cycles. Oikos 50:270–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zollner PA, Lima SL (1999) Search strategies for landscape-level interpatch movements. Ecology 80:1019–1030CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chaire de recherche du Canada en conservation des écosystèmes nordiques et Centre d’études nordiquesUniversité du Québec à RimouskiRimouskiCanada

Personalised recommendations