A cyclical decline in the population of small rodents in the Swedish mountains has hurt the numbers of one of Sweden’s most endangered predators, the Arctic fox.
The Arctic fox, or fjällräv in Swedish, lives in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere, is an endangered species in Scandinavia, where populations are critically low.
Last year, a record 88 kits were born in the Swedish mountains, reports Swedish Radio News in Norrbotten. However, this year, only seven have been born.
This has not come as a surprise to researchers involved in protecting the Arctic fox.
“It was expected as we had a violent crash in the small rodents population beginning last year,” says Stockholm University Zoology professor Anders Angerbjörn, to Swedish Radio News in Norrbotten.
Stocks of Arctic fox fluctuate in a cycle in tandem with the population of lemmings and voles (a 3- to 4-year cycle), which are the main food source of the predators.
In the past, longer sustained periods without a regular supply of the small rodents, coupled with hunting, now illegal, led to the Arctic fox becoming critically endangered in Norway and Sweden.
Several projects are in operation in both countries helping to supplement food supplies and Anders Angerbjörn hopes that they can make a difference.
“As long as we get nice four-year-cycles of small rodents we can, with our various measures, support the Arctic fox population, so that it is regularly increasing,” he tells Swedish Radio News.
Today, there are between 150 and 200 Arctic foxes in Sweden.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Fighting to protect bird habitat in North America’s boreal forest (SLIDESHOW), Eye on the Arctic
Finland: New measures to protect the Saimaa seal in Finland, Yle News
Norway: Rapid growth in Svalbard walrus population, Barents Observer
Sweden: Arctic foxes making a comeback in Sweden, Radio Sweden
Russia: Is mercury harming foxes in the Russian Arctic?, Eye on the Arctic
United States: Did Arctic fox evolve from Himalayas?, Alaska Dispatch News