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Arctic Foxes are amazingly adapted to their habitat. Red foxes are amazingly adaptable. They used to never meet in the wild, but the climate is changing and so is the wild. What happens when these foxes' habitats overlap?

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Foxes!  So fluffy and cute with their little noses and soul-searching eyes and big floofy tails.   There are 12 fox species in the (?~0:08) genus, and more than 20 other species commonly referred to as foxes.  I'm Jessi, this is Animal Wonders, and today we're going to talk about two of the most iconic fox species: the incredibly adaptable red fox and the extremely adorable arctic fox.

(Intro)

Foxes are found on every continent except Antarctica.  Arctic foxes are found in the Arctic tundra biome.  Their range is circumglobal, meaning they're found on all continents in the Arctic region of the North Pole.  Red foxes, on the other hand, have been very successful in many latitudes, including the Southern regions of the Arctic, forests, deserts, prairies, mountains, and even cities.   These two foxes are similar with their cunning eyes, pointy noses, thick fur, and keen ability to hunt rodents, but they're also very different.

Arctic foxes have shorter legs and ears, not to mention, thicker fur which extends to the bottom of their feet.  These adaptations and others allow them to survive in the extreme weather of the Arctic.  Red foxes are larger and more athletic, but their fur just can't compete with the Arctic fox who's comfortable in -60 degree weather.  Not just able to survive, comfortable.  That's incredible.  

I'm interested in comparing these two foxes side by side because that's what's happening in the wild right now.  The Arctic tundra is getting warmer, which allows red foxes to venture further North than they would have been able to do in the past.  They no longer need a fur coat as cold weather resistant as an Arctic fox has.  Their own winter fur is now adequate.  That's great news for red foxes.  They're able to hunt in new areas and stake claim to new territories.  All they have to do is chase off the smaller native foxes and the place is there.

The change in environment is bad news for Arctic foxes.  They're now having to survive a completely new challenge: competition from a new species.  A multitude of researchers are documenting interactions between the red and Arctic foxes in the wild and the majority are reporting back that red foxes dominate the interactions.  Arctic foxes are being chased from their dens, which are often generations old.  In some cases, adults and/or pups are being killed by an intruding red fox.  

Obviously, that's awful for the Arctic foxes, but what do these observations mean in the big picture?  What's going on here?  Well, as nature continues to teach us, lots of things are going on at the same time.  Arctic foxes might be able to adapt to the change by simply moving further North to avoid the red foxes' claim on the Southern parts of the region.  However, with warmer temperatures, the snow is melting, which is having a negative impact on the main food source for Arctic foxes: lemmings, which are little rodents that like to live above the frozen ground in the snow patch.

Shorter, warmer winters could prevent the lemmings from having their usual population boom every five years or so, which means less food for the Arctic foxes.  They could turn to an alternate food source, scavenging polar bear kills, but we all know that polar bears are having an even harder time than Arctic foxes.  There is a chance that climate change will make it more difficult for reindeer to survive, meaning another food source for them to scavenge on, but this is a temporary solution.  

Will a permanent decline in lemmings, reindeer, and polar bears make it impossible for Arctic foxes to live further North out of the range of red foxes?  We don't know yet.  That's why researchers are collecting more data.  While red foxes are better at hunting voles, Arctic foxes seem more adept at climbing cliffs and hunting shore birds, and they're more skilled at (?~3:20) eggs in the spring, so they stay cool and fresh for winter consumption.  Maybe this will help them out-compete the reds in certain areas.

Currently, Arctic foxes are not endangered as a whole.  However, certain populations are critically endangered.  There are 150 individuals in all Norway, Finland, and Sweden.  I'm eager to learn more as scientists continue to research Arctic fox and red fox behavior in the wild, and since I'm not out there doing research on my own, I found a couple ways that I can help the situation right from home.

I can reduce my carbon footprint in any way I can.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.  Compost, grow my own garden, and keep one-time plastic use to an absolute minimum.  I can support zoological organizations that donate to conservation research and action.  I can donate to directly to conservation efforts and I can vote for ecologically friendly bills and representatives both locally and federally.

I'm so grateful to be able to take care of these two amazing foxes and be able to share them with others so they can inspire more people to learn about what's happening in the Arctic.  Thank you, Seraphina and Cas, and thank you for joining us.

If you'd like to go on an adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel, AnimalWondersMontana, and if you'd like to help us keep making educational videos about animals, go to patreon.com/animalwonders and become a monthly Patron.  Thanks, and we'll see you next time.  

(Outro/Credits)

Well, this is a cockatiel, but to really get to know what they are, let's break it down by taxonomy.  Kingdom animalia, phylum chordata, because they're animals with backbones.  Class aves.