More than 450 Siberian fox cubs have been bred and released into the wild in the last twenty years in Norway.
A breeding programme was initiated back in 2003 when there were probably no more than 50 arctic foxes left in the wild in Finland, Sweden and Norway combined.
Now, new cubs are transported and released in the mountains of Troms, an area where has historically a lot of the foxes lived, with many of their abandoned dens still intact. Some are being cleared of snow, to make it easier for the incoming vulpines.
“The area we are going to, is an area where it used to be mountain foxes. There are plenty of old mountain fox-dens. But it has been empty for many years,” Thomas Johansen, a senior advisor at the Norwegian Environmental Protection Agency, said.
“Now, we are releasing foxes, hoping they will establish a new tribe here, hopefully the start of a new era.”
Numbers slowly increasing but arctic foxes remain endangered
The number of Siberian foxes has increased slowly since the start of the programme and today the population counts around 300 adult animals in Norway.
However, the situation is still precarious, as these foxes are still listed as under threat of becoming extinct in Scandinavia.
Karen Lone is a senior advisor at the game section of the Norwegian Environment Agency, and she says last year the agency registered 54 litters — the second-largest number since the start of the breeding programme in Norway.
“The total number of arctic foxes in the three Scandinavian countries is estimated at a little less than 500 adult individuals today,” Lone adds.
To maximise their post-release survival, supplementary feeding stations and artificial dens are deployed near release sites. To date, captive-reared foxes have been reintroduced into nine different populations across Norway.