Ecophysiological research of Arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) on Svalbard

This project started as a pilot project in Ny-Ålesund in 1990, based on an idea from professor Nils Are Øritsland. The main goal of the project is to calculate the energy budget in arctic foxes during full year cycles. In 1994 a fox stall was built in Ny-Ålesund with cages for nine foxes. A bioenergetic laboratory was installed in near vicinity of the fox stall. The laboratory has a climate chamber for measuring metabolic rates of resting foxes, and a treadmill enclosed in a climate chamber for measuring metabolic rates of running/active foxes. Through the year, resting metabolic rates as well as metabolic rates of foxes running on the treadmill are measured, during both starvation and re-feeding. Blood samples are also taken at set intervals of starvation. We measure heart rate and body temperature in the foxes with radio transmitters which have been surgically implanted into the animals. To be able to use heart rate as an indicator for metabolic rates in free-living animals, we calculate the relationship between metabolic rate and heart rate of the foxes at different activity levels. Heart rates and body temperatures are measured continuously in all animals, with the objective of identifying daily and seasonal variations.