Dynamics of the Arctic Fox Population on St. Lawrence Island, Bering Sea

  • F.H. Fay
  • R.L. Rausch
Keywords: Animal food, Animal mortality, Animal population, Arctic foxes, Inuit, Predation, Trapping, Voles, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska


We hypothesized that the arctic fox, Alopex lagopus (Linnaeus), population on St. Lawrence Island was cyclic and that its fluctuations in size, structure, and productivity were correlated with the relative size of the population of northern voles, Microtus oeconomus Pallas, the primary prey. Based on a nine-year study, we determined that the variations in size of the fox and vole populations were similar, but they both were of low amplitude and not closely correlated. The high pregnancy rate (mean, 86%/yr) and numbers of young conceived (mean, 11.5/pregnancy) did not vary significantly among years, probably because of the consistently abundant and diverse food supply available to the foxes. The age composition of the trappers' catch of foxes each winter also was comparatively stable, but it was closely correlated with the size of the vole population in the previous summer. The survival of the young foxes during the summer probably was dependent on the availability of the voles. The composition of the catch also appeared to be influenced by immigration of foxes from the adjacent continents via the pack ice.

Key words: Bering Sea, arctic fox, Alopex lagopus, population dynamics