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(Alopex lagopus), a predatory mammal of the family Canidae. The body is 50 to 75 cm long and weighs from 6 to 10 kg. The fluffy tail reaches 40 cm in length. The muzzle is short and pointed, and the ears are small and rounded. The paws are short, and the soles are covered by coarse hairs. The fur is thick and fluffy. There are two color phases: the white form, which is pure white in winter and grayish brown in summer, and the blue form, which is smoky gray in both summer and winter.
The arctic fox is found in the tundra and forest tundra of Eurasia and North America. In the USSR it is nearly ubiquitous on the continental tundra and forest tundra, as well as on offshore islands. Blue foxes dwell on the Komandorskie Islands and are rarely encountered on the mainland. During the winter, large numbers of arctic foxes migrate from the tundra to the forest tundra or the northern coastal regions.
Arctic foxes live in families in dens. Less commonly, they dwell among rock outcrops or in tree trunks washed up by the sea. The animals feed on such rodents as lemmings and voles, on birds and their eggs, on carrion, and on berries. Mating occurs in February or March. After a gestation period of 49 to 57 days, the female gives birth to a litter of seven to 12 pups.
The arctic fox population fluctuates sharply from year to year. The foxes are extremely valuable commercially, serving as the basis for fur trade in the north. Because its fur is particularly valuable, the blue fox is also raised on special farms. On fur farms in the USSR, two varieties of blue fox are raised: foxes with dark gray underfur, and foxes with light gray, nearly white underfur. Farms raising the first variety may be found in the northern and temperate latitudes of America, Europe, and Asia. Natural pelts are used to make boas, collars, and hats. The fur from the paws is used in the manufacture of coats.
REFERENCEMlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 2, part 1. Edited by V. G. Geptner and N. P. Naumov. Moscow, 1967.
I. I. SOKOLOV