An aerial view of the captive breeding facility at Sæterfjellet. Craig Jackson / NINA
The long-term project represents a central pillar in the species’ conservation in Norway. Each year, captive-reared offspring are strategically released in various mountain areas across Norway. Since the first release in 2006, a total of 460 arctic foxes have been reintroduced into the wild. In combination with active management interventions in the release sites, such as supplementary feeding and culling of red foxes, the Norwegian Arctic fox population was estimated to number 302 (278 – 338) adults in 2020. This represents a four-fold increase since 2008 [see monitoring programme]. The project has resulted in the reestablishment of three locally extinct Arctic fox populations and strengthened numbers in numerous others. Emigration of released individuals into Sweden and Finland have benefited the Scandinavian population as a whole, and in 2020 the Norwegian-Swedish Arctic fox population was estimated to number 452 adults.
The captive breeding station
The captive breeding facility consists of eight large enclosures, each approximately half the size of a football field. An additional, slightly smaller, enclosure serves as a temporary holding facility. Each enclosure has a minimum of two artificial dens. The facility is situated in the Arctic foxes’ natural habitat. Handling, intervention and disturbance are kept to a minimum, and animal welfare is prioritized at all times.
Since its inception, the project has carefully sourced breeding pairs from populations across Norway, ensuring that the remaining genetic variation in the Scandinavian Arctic fox population is preserved and represented in captive-bred individuals.