Saving the Endangered Fennoscandian Alopex lagopus (SEFALO)

Project leader

Funding source

EU LIFE programme

Project Details

Start date: 04/09/2003
End date: 30/06/2008
Funding: 0 EUR


The arctic fox, or polar fox, (Alopex lagopus) is threatened to go extinct in Sweden, Finland and everywhere else in the European Union. It is a priority species according to the EC Habitat directive. At the present population size with less than 150 individuals in mainland Europe, even a small change in demographic parameters or pure "accidents" can affect the risk of extinction dramatically. Large areas within the previous range of the arctic fox are empty today and many young foxes have difficulties to find a non-related partner. The species is highly dependent on a regular pattern of population cycles of small rodents (Clethrionomys sp., Microtus sp., Lemmus sp.). The main threat is the small population size constrained by low food availability. The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is a dominant competitor and a predator on juveniles and is currently increasing its range above the tree line, taking over dens and excluding arctic foxes from parts of their breeding range. Since the threatened population encompasses also Norway, it is important to monitor the population also there. We will use a dynamic management approach to monitor and allocate conservation actions to support the species in the most efficient way. We will use a supplementary feeding programme to increase reproductive output and juvenile survival, and a red fox control programme to safeguard the best arctic fox territories. Further, areas around Swedish dens with arctic fox cubs will be excluded from ptarmigan hunting, to decrease disturbance from hunting dogs. The population will be monitored for various diseases, and the unknown disease causing encephalitis in captive arctic fox will be identified. These actions will also be implemented within authorities to ensure continuation of monitoring and conservation actions after the proposed project. The actions will increase the reproductive output and decrease mortality for arctic foxes, and thereby substantially increase population viability. Further, through information available on a website and information by local tourist operators, we will promote public co-operation and understanding for the actions needed to support the Fennoscandian arctic fox population.

Last updated on 2017-24-03 at 12:50