Food Habits of Arctic Foxes (<i>Alopex Lagopus</i>) on the Western Coast of Svalbard

  • Karl Frafjord
Keywords: Animal behaviour, Animal food, Animal mortality, Animal waste products, Arctic foxes, Birds, Cannibalism, Denning, Lemmings, Reindeer, Seals (Animals), Svalbard


Food habits of arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) on the western coast of Svalbard were studied in the years 1986-89. Faeces (n=1018) were collected mostly in summer, and food remains were recorded both at dens and elsewhere in the region. The foxes were opportunistic in their hunting and feeding habits, utilizing a wide variety of available food items. Alcids (mainly little auks and Brunnich's guillemot), gulls (mainly kittiwakes), and fulmars were the major foods in summer. The consumption of alcids by fox families was correlated with availability near the den. In winter, fulmars and, in one region, seals were important foods. Some regional differences in food consumption were found. A change in diet was observed when a litter of pups moved from one den to another (2 of 3 cases). Differences in food habits between years also were found at the same den (4 of 5 cases). Foxes frequently cached food by scatter hoarding, placing only a single item in each cache.

Key words: arctic fox, Alopex lugopus, food habits, prey species, food caching, Svalbard