Arctic foxes are true Arctic residents. Perfectly adapted to conditions in the far north, the predators had settled throughout the Arctic region. But their dense winter fur also brought them to the brink of extinction in many parts of the Arctic due to hunters. The animals were also acutely endangered throughout the northern Scandinavian region. However, massive conservation efforts seem to be helping the animals to return to their ancestral territories, now also back in Finland.
“One swallow does not make a summer” is a well-known proverb. But at least for arctic foxes this does not seem to apply. Because in Enontekiö, a region in northwestern Finland, the den of an Arctic fox was discovered as part of the EU-funded “Felles Fjellrev Nord II” project. And where there is a den, there are also young, or in this case probably one. As this is the first such record of the small Arctic predators in Finland in 25 years, there is corresponding excitement as it could mean that conservation efforts in the region are bearing fruit.
The discovery of the den was made in the Enontekiö region in northwestern Finland. The area is sandwiched between northern Norway and Sweden and consists mostly of nature reserves, resp.. National parks. Only about 1,800 people live in the region at the lower edge on the border with Sweden. In addition, the foothills of the Scandinavian mountains can be found, which further complicates accessibility. But apparently it is an ideal place for Arctic foxes to settle down again. This is because studies in the neighboring regions of Norway and Sweden have also shown that the number of Arctic predators is on the rise again. According to the project manager of “Felles Fjellrev Nord II”, David Bell, 19 dens were counted in the Norbotten region (SWE) alone and another 16 in the Troms/Finnmark area (NOR).
But for the experts, the number of dens alone is not yet proof that the Arctic foxes in the region are doing better again. The number of young born each season must also be factored in. And here, according to conservation organizations in Sweden and Finland, there is a clear upward trend. “This year, in Finland, Sweden and Norway, a total of 162 confirmed pups were counted. In Sweden there were 91, in Norway 70 and then in Finland this one,” Tuomo Ollila tells the newspaper “Yle”. Ollila works for the Finnish management company Metsähallitus, which is responsible for the park, nature conservation measures and forests to provide sustainable timber for the timber industry in Finland. His projects also include the protection and reintroduction of Arctic foxes in Finland.
For the recently expired project “Felles Fjellrev Nord II”, which had been working to improve the situation of Arctic foxes in northern Scandinavia since 2014, the news from Finland is very positive. Because just four years ago, experts reported that there were fewer than 250 animals in the region and that the population was on the brink of collapse. But it turns out that the little predators are obviously not only tough when it comes to environmental conditions. Hopefully, the number will continue to increase and Arctic foxes will soon be seen more often again… or not, thanks to their white fur.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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