The young female left the Svalbard Archipelago of Norway on March 26, 2018, and reached Canada’s remote Ellesmere Island on July 1 of that year, the Norwegian Polar Institute said in new research published last week.
Researchers recorded the transcontinental movements of the young arctic fox with a satellite tracking device on its collar. The fox covered the 1,000-mile first leg of the journey in 21 days. It traveled from the archipelago, which sits between mainland Norway and the North Pole, to Greenland.
It moved at an average rate of 28.7 miles per day. The animal crossed Greenland’s ice sheet in a single day – traveling about 96 miles.
“This is, to our knowledge, the fastest movement rate ever recorded for this species,” Eva Fuglei said in the report, co-written with Arnaud Tarroux. They noted that the limited food supply out on the ice sheet may have resulted in the increased speed.
The fox continued through harsh conditions for another 1,000 miles, where it settled on Ellesmere Island. The journey is among the longest recorded for an arctic fox, scientists said.
The study concluded that sea ice is vital to the species' ability to migrate to new areas, meet other populations and find food sources. It noted that climate change may melt the sea ice and isolate the arctic fox population on Svalbard.
The tracking device stopped transmitting in February 2019, scientists said, leaving the fox’s ultimate fate unclear.