They’re called tiriqaniaq in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit.
Also known as white fox, polar fox, and snow fox, Arctic foxes are native to polar regions in North America, Greenland, Iceland, and Eurasia. They’re canids, so they’re related to dogs, wolves, coyotes, jackals, African wild dogs, and dingoes.
Most have long white fur in the winter, although some are a grayish-blue color. They have short dark fur in the summer. They were an important part of the Inuit economy between the 1920s and the 1970s. The Inuit used the white winter skins to trade for goods at trading posts.
About the size of a large house cat, they’re a maximum of 12 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 6.5 and 17 pounds. They have relatively short legs, muzzles, and ears and the thickest fur of any mammal, all attributes that conserve heat.
The lagopus in their name means “rabbit footed.” It refers to the fact that the bottoms of their paws are covered with fur as a protection from cold. They’re not bothered by temperatures of -50 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.
They’re opportunistic feeders. They’ll eat almost anything they can get in their mouths, but their favorite food is a small rodent called a lemming. They also eat voles, hares, ringed seal pups, fish, birds, carrion, berries, seaweed, insects, and other small invertebrates.
Red foxes, golden eagles, snowy owls, wolverines, wolves, grizzly bears, and humans prey on them. In spite of their demanding and dangerous lives, though, populations are stable, so they’re not considered endangered.
They normally live three to six years. The vixen can reproduce before she’s a year old. Litters average about five kits, but litters of 20 or more kits are not unknown.