Arctic Fox Easter Treat
Arctic foxes eat a lot of different stuff. That’s important when you live in the arctic where there’s not always a lot of food. One of their most important food sources are lemmings. But lemming populations cycle up and down over a 3-5 year cycle.
Collared Lemmings are one of the most important food sources for Arctic Foxes. Photo via iNaturalist © Jukka Jantunen, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
So believe it or not, eggs are actually a really important part of an Arctic Foxes diet – especially when there’s not many lemmings around.
The foxes go and collect up lots of eggs from birds like Snow Geese. And then they hide those eggs away for times of the year when there isn’t much food. This is called caching. Biologists have seen individual Arctic Foxes cache more than 1000 eggs in a season.
Snow Goose colonies in the Arctic make for relatively easy pickings for a few brief weeks each spring. Photo via iNaturalist © mortenchristensen, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
So it turns out the easter bunny isn’t the only animal that likes to hide eggs!
The eggs we’re feeding our foxes today are chicken eggs – they’re actually a lot smaller than snow geese eggs. We used foodsafe dyes to get the fun colours. These eggs are a great source of nutrients. The foxes might end up eating bits of shell, but that’s okay because they are rich in calcium.
Want to dive deeper into some of the research on how Arctic Foxes rely on caching eggs? Here’s a couple of papers that inspired this post:
Prolonging the arctic pulse: long‐term exploitation of cached eggs by arctic foxes when lemmings are scarce (Gustaf Samelius, Ray T. Alisaukas, Keith A. Hobson Serge Lariviere), 2007.
Cache and carry: hoarding behavior of arctic fox (Vincent Careau & Jean-François Giroux & Dominique Berteaux), 2006.
Jake Paleczny is passionate about interpretation and education. He gained his interpretative expertise from a decade of work in Ontario’s provincial parks in addition to a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. His interests also extend into the artistic realm, with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Western Ontario and extensive experience in galleries and museums.