The last few months have been interesting at the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s animal hospital with all sorts of Arctic fox shipments. The zoo had ten young foxes born in June of 2008, after a gestation of about 52 days. Their exact birthdates are unknown as they are born underground and the babies are not seen for a few weeks. One set of parents had seven kits while the other had three. The new additions made for a wonderful summer of viewing and learning at the fox exhibits.
Arctic fox do not hibernate and can withstand temperatures as low as -50 degress Celsius (perfect animals for a zoo in Winnipeg!). They have a life span of about ten years, with both parents looking after the young. Nine subspecies of Arctic fox live in the Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America. Arctic fox are pure white in the winter and grey-brown, light brown, gray, chocolate, or even black with a bluish hue in the summer, depending on their range. Arctic foxes are omnivorous, but feed particularly on small mammals (lemmings), eggs, carrion and berries.
Zoo keepers and vet staff had a fox round-up in early November, and after all of the kits were caught up, they were transferred to the zoo hospital. The ten kits were given a physical, vaccinated, and tattooed and micro-chipped at the hospital. This was all done while they were anesthetized as they are wild animals. After a clean bill of health they were ready for their new homes and were set up in pens with both indoor and outdoor access. It was relatively easy to find homes for the youngsters as Arctic fox are not well represented in zoos. Over the winter the foxes were sent to other zoos across the continent and across the ocean. The majority of them went by plane but one went by truck. They went to Tacoma, Washington, St.Paul, and Minnesota in the U.S., to Edmonton, Toronto, Thunder Bay and New Brunswick in Canada and also to Switzerland. There is one fox still waiting for his flight to his new home in France.
Thanks to Jacquie for this update from the zoo hospital!