Arctic fox revival I


Five years ago, on the 2 September 2008,  I went along when a group of scientists and enthusiasts carried five puppies of arctic fox to Sylane, some high mountains between Norway and Sweden. The day was freezingly cold with snow in the air, which is quite normal in this altitude. Anyway, everybody involved were happy and excited. The arctic fox was acutely endangered on the Scandinavian mainland, and this was part of a plan to save the species.


In 2005, the arctic fox population in Norway was estimated to be only 50 adult animals. The species were critically endangered with a great risk that it would disappear from our nature. That year started a project to save our polar fox. Puppies were taken from the wild for controlled breeding. I must say I was a bit sceptical, like some conservationist. To take some of the very few remaining foxes sounded risky. But they breeded well and this day I was attending one of the early releases of animals.


Before the white foxes were carried to the high mountains they had to get microchips for later identification (they already had earmarks), and they also got a collar who would transmit signals for scientists and nature management. The animals were blindfolded during this operation to keep calm, and they worked very fast not to disturb the animals more than necessary.


Utplassering av fem fjellrev i Sylene. Foto: Bente Haarstad



After some hours walk the five arctic foxes were released in an artificial den. They also got supplies of food (dog food) as they were used too. Both to help them survive as they now had to fend for themselves. In the picture, Olav Nyrønning, leder of a local group of arctic fox volunteers, and scientist Arild Landa.


The project seems to have been a success. Foxes have been released in many mountain areas the last years and they breed in the wild. Now the population is estimated to be nearly 140 animals, more than doubled since 2005. There are more pictures in my arctic fox photo galleries.





62 thoughts on “Arctic fox revival I

  1. I had encountered the arctic fox when I was stationed in Thule< Greenland years ago. They are beautiful animals and they seemed to be thriving there, but that was a long time ago. I would support actions taken to preserve this species.


  2. What a fantastic project, Bente. How lucky you were to go along and document the release in a series of photos too. They’re very good and I really enjoyed your post.
    Having seen what controlled breeding can do with our zoo animals, I’m greatly enthused by the efforts of scientists, biologists, nature reserves & zoos.
    Man has upset the balance of nature and I see it as of prime importance for man to restore the balance.


  3. Vad spännande att vara med och släppa ut rävarna. Lång promenad och rävar på ryggen – det tog säkert på krafterna. Fina foton och jag gillar fotodokumentationen. Roligt att se.


  4. Jag är med i Svenska Rovdjursföreningen så jag är lite uppdaterad ang norsk/ svenska fjällrävar. Ett bra initiativ att plantera ut rävungar, det gör man inte i Sverige , här stödutfodrar man och skjuter rödräv , eftersom dom konkurrerar med fjällräven.


    1. I know about the Swedish project, one of their leaders is one of these pictures. The conservationists that criticized this project in the beginning actually wanted to do like the Swedes, that is shooting red fox (as they also do in Norway some places since this fox is a major competitor with a growing population), and feeding, as they also do in this project. We know your project have worked well, but nobody is criticizing the Norwegian project any more, as I know. Thanks, Ann.


    1. Well, I just took the pictures, and wrote some articles. But thanks anyway, and these days we really need people and authorities who recognize the value of retaining biodiversity. You too enrich the planet by beautiful landscape photos.


  5. What a fantastic project Bente, my idea of heaven doing something like that, and I’m so pleased it is working. There are so many places and creatures that I’ll probably never see, but it means a lot to me to know that they are there. Mike


  6. What beautiful animals. It is so good to read about dedicated people trying to preserve endangered species. 140 individuals seems so low, have they studied the genetic diversity of the group?


    1. I am sure they have studied the genetic diversity, because they sample DNA from every den/animal they can find, every year. I don’t know the details, but I don’t think they have major problems with inbreeding. Yes, I know, a very small population indeed, but they have captured animals from every part of the country, with very big distances between them. There is also at least one Swedish animal in the program.


      1. This is very interesting, by capturing animals from all over the country they will be increasing the genetic diversity and strengthening the gene pool of the small population. Such a great initiative.


  7. Great story and great success. Giving nature a helping hand cannot be bad. Like you Bente I have some conservation reservations about man intervening whether it be re-introductions or eradication. Careful thought is needed on all such projects and apart from the science, common sense must also apply…..I tend to fear that here in the U.K. some conservationist are too keen to act as god and adopt a very narrow viewpoint. Keep us posted about the future developments.


    1. Taking animals from the wild in this way, is a very radical intervention, which should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Which I think was absolutely neccessary this time, since the species was almost gone. Wikip: “The world population is not endangered, but two arctic fox subpopulations are. One is on Medny Island (Russia), which was reduced by some 85–90%, to around 90 animals, as a result of mange caused by an ear tick introduced by dogs in the 1970s.The population is under treatment with antiparasitic drugs.
      The other threatened population is the one in Fennoscandia (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Kola Peninsula). This population decreased drastically around the start of the 20th century as a result of extreme fur prices which caused severe hunting also during population lows. The population has remained at a low density for more than 90 years.


  8. This is great what they did… And should be amazing experience for you too, you captured such a beautiful photographs. I am impressed so much and made me cry too 🙂 I am so emotional one… Thank you dear Bente, love, nia


    1. Jada, satt ut flere fjellrever på Dovrefjell enn i Sylan, og det er der avlsstasjonen ligger, ikke langt fra Oppdal. Settes også ut fjellrev derfra i andre fjellområder. Bl.a. Finse og Saltfjellet de siste årene.


  9. That must have been interesting to walk around with those good people. and that the project turned out possitive is such a good thing to! pictures are so nice 😀


  10. Jeg tror, jeg skriver som alle dine læsere, Uhh! Det er en rigtig god historie. Det er meget dejligt at læse om et projekt i naturen, der lykkes.
    Cool pictures!


  11. What an amazing project and so good! And also what an amzing beautiful foxs! I really liked your story and photos of this beautiful project, thank you for sharing,.


    1. Rødreven fortrenger fjellreven, det problemet er man veldig klar over. Og derfor prøver man å redusere rødrevbestanden i høyfjellet. Om klimaet har forandret seg så mye i den perioden fjellreven har gått tilbake, det vet jeg ikke. Takk til deg!


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