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Arctic Fox

Vulpes Lagopus

Population Status

Arctic fox are found across the Yukon North Slope with the breeding distribution being concentrated on the coastal plain and on Herschel Island. This distribution is believed to be limited because of inter-specific competition with red foxes, and the availability of adequate den sites. Arctic foxes have been found as far south as 55 degrees latitude so they likely occur at least incidentally throughout the British and Barn Mountains.

Population Size:

A study conducted in from 1984 to 1988 determined that the density of active Arctic fox dens were relatively high on Herschel Island (2-7 natal dens/100 km2) and relatively low on the Yukon coastal plain (0-0.04/100 km2). Most dens on the coastal plain were located in the deltas of the Firth and Malcolm rivers, and by Clarence Lagoon.

Population Trend:


Unique or Special Characteristics

  • Arctic fox were once the mainstay of the Western Arctic fur trading economy.
  • Winter and summer habitats are vastly different and may be geographically separated.

Habitat Features

Denning habitat appears to limit the number of Arctic foxes on the Yukon’s coastal plain. Arctic foxes prefer well-drained soils for denning, which occur sparsely on the coastal plain.


Inuvialuit Harvest:

Inuvialuit have exclusive rights to harvest furbearers on the Yukon North Slope. From 1988 to 1999 Inuvialuit harvest data was collected through the Inuvialuit Harvest Study. In the period from 1988 to 1997, Aklavik residents harvested about 7 Arctic fox per year. It is unknown how many of these were taken on the Yukon North Slope. The Yukon government, in partnership with the Aklavik HTC, has been collecting furbearer harvest data from Inuvialuit residents of Aklavik since 2001. Harvest information recorded includes species, date, location, sex and maturity of the animal. Funding and support for the collection of harvest data is supplied through the IFA and other agencies.

3rd Party Harvest:

Regulations under Yukon Wildlife Act, NWT Wildlife Act and National Parks Act apply in their respective jurisdictions. Beneficiaries of adjacent claim settlements may harvest with Inuvialuit consent, on the same basis as the Inuvialuit.

Eco Tourism

Arctic foxes are a potential tourism attraction on Herschel Island. They easily habituate to people and are popular with visitors. Their den sites typically support rich colonies of wildflowers which further appeal to tourists.


Threats include excessive trapping pressure, particularly the impact of intensive latewinter trapping over a small area of high fox density such as Herschel Island, habitat loss of restricted denning areas, disturbance at den sites as a result of a projected increase of visitors to Herschel Island and loss of sea ice.

Species at Risk Status

  • Yukon: none
  • COSEWIC: none
  • CITES: none

General Status

May be at Risk (due to small population size, restricted distribution and threats from humans and climate change. Arctic fox are listed on the Yukon Conservation Data Centre’s Animal Track List. This is a list of vertebrate animals that are considered of conservation concern in Yukon by the Yukon Conservation Data Centre. The CDC actively tracks information on Arctic fox and maps all known locations in their database.

Research and Monitoring

A research project was conducted through the Government of Yukon Department of Environment from 1984 to 1988 to determine the distribution and characteristics of dens, the pattern of den-site occupancy, and annual productivity. Further studies are currently proposed for Herschel Island. Aerial den surveys were conducted in 2008 to determine den occupancy for both Arctic and red fox. Results were compared with past survey data from 1971-1972 and 1986-1990 - a comparison across 37 years. Results indicate that red fox abundance has not increased and Arctic fox abundance has not decreased. Results also indicate that there has been no contraction of the range of the Arctic fox.

Population monitoring:

Annual monitoring of Arctic fox and dens was recently initiated on Herschel Island. Further studies are proposed. No systematic monitoring is done elsewhere.


To meet IFA conservation goals, the co-management bodies are mandated to determine and recommend (to Yukon government, GNWT and Parks Canada) a total allowable harvest and/ or promote research, if and when required.

Community-based Information

In 2003, WMAC(NS) and the Aklavik HTC recorded traditional knowledge of certain birds and animals on the Yukon North Slope. The observations, comments and concerns expressed by Aklavik residents as part of this study were as follows:

  • More coloured foxes are seen on the southeast compared to the northwest side of the
  • North Slope.
  • Numbers are low now, but were high in 1998, and vary between years.
  • Tracks are frequently seen on spring bear hunts, mostly inland in foothills and
  • mountains

Sick animals are occasionally trapped and one was found dead near a cabin. Community-based information on this species may also be found in the reports of the annual community-based monitoring program conducted in Aklavik and neighbouring communities by the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op. Information is also available in the Aklavik Inuvialuit Community Conservation Plan

(2008) Aklavik CCP

Related Literature and Information Sources

Community of Aklavik, Wildlife Management Advisory Council (NWT) and the Joint Secretariat, 2008. Aklavik Inuvialuit Community Conservation Plan

Gallant, D., Slough, B.G., Berteaux, D., and D.G Reid. 2008. Arctic fox versus red fox in the Canadian Arctic: is there a clear winner after 37 years of monitoring in the warming northern Yukon? Arctic change 2008 : conference programme and abstracts, Québec (Qc), 9-12 December, 2008

Jingfors, K. 1989. Wildlife of Northern Yukon National Park, Chapter 9 in: Northern Yukon National Park resource description and analysis. Natural Resource Conservation Section, Canadian Parks Service, Prairie and Northern Region, Winnipeg.

Joint Secretariat, 2003. Inuvialuit Harvest Study, Data and Methods Report 1988 – 1997. Inuvik, NT.

Smits, C., C. Smith, and B. Slough, 1998. Physical characteristics of Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) dens in northern Yukon Territory, Canada. Arctic 41 (1):12-16. 

Smits, C., B. Slough and Angerbjorn. 1989. Abundance and summer occupancy of arctic fox dens in northern Yukon territory, 1984-1988. Government of Yukon, Department of Environment.

Smits, C. and B. Slough, 1993. Abundance and summer occupancy of arctic fox, Alopex lagopus, and red fox, Vulpes vulpes, dens in the northern Yukon Territory, 1984-1990. Canadian Field Naturalist. 107(1):13-18.

Smits, C., B. Slough and C. Yasui. 1989. Summer food habits of sympatric Arctic foxes and red foxes in the northern Yukon Territory. Canadian Field Naturalist 103 (3): 363-367.

Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) and the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee. 2003. Aklavik Inuvialuit describe the status of certain birds and animals on the Yukon North Slope, March, 2003. Whitehorse, Yukon.