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'We Were Thunderstruck': Arctic Fox Walks 2.7K Miles in 4 Months

Female traveled from northern Norway to Canada's far north
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 2, 2019 7:06 PM CDT
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The polar fox discussed in the article is fitted with a satellite tracking collar in Krossfjorden, Svalbard, a Norwegian Arctic archipelago, on July 29, 2017, as part of research conducted by the Norwegian Polar Institute.   (Elise Stroemseng/Norwegian Polar Institute via AP)

(Newser) – An arctic fox walked more than 2,737 miles to go from northern Norway to Canada's far north in four months, Norwegian researchers said. The Norwegian Polar Institute reported the young female fox left her birth place on Norway's Svalbard archipelago on March 1, 2018, and reached Canada's Ellesmere Island by way of Greenland on July 1, 2018, the AP reports. The ground the small fox cumulatively covered over those four months was among the most ever recorded for an arctic fox seeking a place to settle down and breed, the institute said in a research article subtitled "One female's long run across sea ice." "We couldn't believe our eyes at first. We thought perhaps it was dead, or had been carried there on a boat, but there were no boats in the area. We were quite thunderstruck," one researcher says, per the BBC.

Institute scientists monitored the fox's movements with a satellite tracking device they fitted her with in July 2017 near her native habitat by a glacier on Norway's Spitsbergen island. She stayed close to home then gradually ventured out until she left the island on March 26, 2018. During the walk to Canada, the roughly 2-year-old fox moved at an average rate of 28.7 miles per day, the Norwegian scientists said. "The short span of time spent covering such a distance highlights the exceptional movement capacity of this small-sized carnivore species," they said. The distance between the fox's natal den and where she settled on Ellesmere Island was 1,109 miles if traveled in a straight line, according to the institute. The sea ice allows Norway's arctic foxes to reach Greenland and then North America, though it's not known why they leave their birth places in search of places to breed, the researchers said. (There's something staggering about this photo from Norway.)


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