Conservation status

The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is a circumpolar small canid, found in various habitats of the arctic.

The species is globally regarded as "least concern" while in Scandinavia, the population consist of only 150-200 individuals and is highly protected.

Based on a recent review by IUCN the arctic fox will suffer from indirect effects of global warming. Habitat loss will become a problem while forests increase towards the arctic tundra. The species will become over-competed by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and suffer severe changes in prey abundance as lemming fluctuations will cease.

In Iceland, the arctic fox is the only native terrestrial mammal and found in all regions of the island. Iceland holds a large proportion of the European population and suffers none of the threats that are listed by IUCN: here are no lemmings, no red foxes and trees are scarce. 

Rough estimate of the Icelandic population is around 11000 individuals in the fall. The density varies by regions and is probably highest in the Westfjords, due to proportionally long coas line and large bird cliffs. The population has fluctuated considerably during the centuries and dropped, for example, down to below 1000 individuals in the 1960´s and early 1970´s.

In Svalbard, Greenland, Canada, Russia, and Alaska, trapping for fur is allowed but limited to licensed trappers operating in a defined trapping season. In Iceland, bounty hunting takes place over most of the country outside nature reserves but the fur is not used in any way. On the average, 5000 arctic foxes are killed in Iceland every year.

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve - sanctuary for the arctic fox in Iceland

Some studies include ear-tagging
Some studies include ear-tagging
A legislation stipulating protection of the arctic fox in Nature Reserves and National Parks, was instituted by law in 1994 in Iceland. Thus, from 1995 no legal hunting has been conducted in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. The area is a remote wilderness in Northwest Iceland and a sanctuary for arctic foxes. Due to protection, the foxes in Hornstrandir have become tame and active during the day, an excellent scenario for wildlife watching and photography.

The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is one of the most popular hiking areas in Westfjords and most visitors expect to spot arctic foxes while travelling there. The importance of the foxes in tourism is increasing but no one knows if and how the increasing pressure is affecting the lifetime success of the species.

The Arctic Fox Centre conducts several studies on the species in Iceland, in collaboration with other research institutes.
Volunteers often take part in monitoring programs
Volunteers often take part in monitoring programs

For example on (1) population estimation of arctic foxes in Iceland, (2) den occupancy and social structure of the arctic foxes in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, (3) tourist effects on arctic foxes in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Knowledge on the arctic fox population in Iceland is vital for conservation and management of the species and The Arctic Fox Centre is happy to be able to promote and participate in various studies on the species.