Business Insider Edition

A tagged Arctic fox shocked scientists when it travelled more than 4,000km — from Norway to Canada — in just 76 days

Ashley Collman , Business Insider US
 Jul 04, 2019, 01:33 PM
A researcher holds the Arctic fox that made the record-setting journey.
Elise Strømseng/Norwegian Polar Institute
  • Last year, a young Arctic fox that had been tagged by Norwegian researchers travelled more than 2,700  miles (4,000km) between Norway and Canada in just 76 days.
  • At one point during the journey, the fox covered nearly 100 miles (R160km) in a day, the fastest rate on record for the species.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

An Arctic fox's migration is putting daily Fitbit goals around the world to shame.

Last week, researchers with the Norwegian Polar Institute published a paper detailing how an arctic fox they tagged last year made a stunning 2,743-mile (4,000km) journey from Norway to Canada - in just 76 days.

According to the data gathered by the researchers, the young female arctic fox left Spitsbergen, Norway on March 26, 2018 and travelled over Greenland - passing over sea ice and glaciers - to reach Ellesmere Island in Canada on July 1.

The fox averaged a little more than 28 miles (45km) a day, but on one day travelled as far as 96 miles (154km) in a day, setting a record for her species. That record was set while the fox was traveling over Greenland, suggesting that she was using the sea ice as a mode of travel, the researchers said.

The above map shows the Arctic fox's journey from Norway to Canada.

In a press release, co-author Eva Fuglei said that when they first noticed the fox reach Greenland in just 21 days, they thought something had to have gone wrong.

"We didn't think it was true. Could the fox have been found dead, the collar taken off and now aboard a boat? But no, there are no boats that go so far up in the ice. So we just had to keep up with what the fox did," Fuglei said.

While explorers have seen arctic foxes out on Arctic sea ice in the North Pole before, these appearances were previously explained as rare hunting trips or cases of foxes gone astray.

But the tagged fox followed by the Norwegian researchers suggest that this species regularly performs long-range migrations. They point out that this idea is backed up by studies which show genetic connection in arctic fox populations "across all Arctic islands and continents that are connected with sea ice."

The researchers also point out how this way of life may be threatened by global warming, which is melting Arctic ice and may lead to the foxes becoming isolated on land. However, they have no answers as to whether that would impact the species' population levels.

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