Arctic fox spatial ecology (2012-2019)

Currently, knowledge is lacking regarding movement patterns of arctic foxes in Svalbard during autumn, winter and spring. The main objective of this project is to investigate critical aspects of arctic fox spatial ecology (annual movements and long-ranging behaviour) to provide applied management advice regarding the management of this Arctic species.

One hypothesized climate change induced“pressure” on the arctic fox population in Svalbard is potential negative impacts of sea ice reduction. Arctic foxes use the sea ice as a foraging platform very heavily in spring. With declines in sea ice coverage the questions is when, how and where will foxes use sea ice areas currently, and how they will replace lost energy reserves with declining ice-seal prey.

By use of ARGOS satellite collars designed for arctic foxes we have tracked 54 individuals year-round between 2012 and 2017. So far, few foxes have moved out of the Svalbard Archipelago, though one young females moved all the way over to Greenland in a 14 day-long trip over the sea ice! However, with a couple of exceptions, most foxes stayed within 90 km of their capture location during the period they were satellite-tracked. Thus far in the project average daily movement distance is 6.6 km, though the variation between individuals is large – ranging from 0.5 km to 72.6 km per day. The project is on-going and will continue to deploy collars that next two summers.