Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


Arctic fox population in Hornstrandir rebounding

By Staff

  • Friendly little creatures The fox population in the Hornstrandir region in the West Fjords appears to be rebounding this year. The foxes are protected in the region, and have grown very tame, approaching humans, even eating out of the palm of tourists who offer them treats. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson.

Most recent studies point to a good year for the arctic fox population in the Hornstrandir region in the West Fjords, North Western Iceland. Biologist Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir who recently visited the area tells the National Broadcasting Service that initial findings indicate that conditions this spring are excellent for the fox. 

Last few years have been hard on the foxes
The news is especially welcome because last few years have been very hard on the foxes. During the years 2009-2013 the population “crashed” according to biologists and conservationists. The fox population was estimated at 14,000 animals in 2008, but was down to only 8-9,000 in 2010, and continued to shrink in the following years.

The development has been particularly bad in the remote area of Hornstrandir in the West fjords, where last summer was disastrous. A large number of adult animals were found dead, and only a handful of pairs managed to raise cubs.

Is this year good or bad for the foxes?
Recent weeks have seen conflicting reports on whether the collapse of the fox population is continuing. A week ago the local web journal Stundin reported that the foxes were “dying in record numbers” all around Iceland. However, the regional news service Austurfréttir, in Eastern Iceland rejected the report of Stundin. According to local biologists and hunters in Eastern Iceland the local population was unusually strong this year.

The recent news from Hornstrandir indicates that conditions in the West Fjords are also good.

A beautiful but elusive creature
The Arctic fox is believed to have migrated to Iceland during the last Ice age, 10,000 years ago. Due to its long isolation it is unique and is considered a separate subspecies of Arctic fox. Arctic foxes are smaller than other species of fox, they are active throughout the year and do not hibernate. During the winter the fox is white, but grey during the summer. The fox lives all around Iceland, but travellers are most likely to spot the elusive little creature in Eastern and Northern Iceland and the West Fjords.

While the Artic fox has the status of a protected species in Hornstrandir it is hunted elsewhere in Iceland, as it threatens bird colonies. The fox is especially hated by farmers who maintain eider nests to harvest valuable eiderdown which is considered more luxurious and more insulating than commercially harvested goose down. 

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