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How do arctic foxes hunt in the snow?
Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to [email protected].
How do arctic foxes hunt in the snow? – Benjamin P., age 4, South Orange, New Jersey
Maybe you’ve seen a video clip of a fluffy white fox moving carefully through a frozen landscape. Suddenly it leaps into the air and dive-bombs straight down into the snow. If so, you’ve witnessed the unusual hunting skills of an arctic fox.
During winter at the most northern parts of Earth, snow and ice transform the arctic tundra into a blanket of white as far as the eye can see. It’s a long, cold and harsh season, and animals like the arctic fox have a number of special tricks that help them survive. Here’s how they’re able to locate and catch their prey.
Blending in with the arctic landscape
Some arctic animals have evolved unique camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. The most obvious example is the polar bear. These large predators have white fur that makes them nearly invisible as they hunt seals on the white sea ice.
During summer, an arctic fox is brown, helping it blend in with its environment and sneak up on prey.
Paul Souders/Stone via Getty Images
Arctic foxes actually change color with the seasons. During summer, their gray and brown fur blends in with tundra rocks and plant life. This camouflage helps arctic foxes slowly sneak up on their prey and avoid being eaten themselves.
But dark fur would make arctic foxes easy to see on the all-white winter tundra once it’s covered with snow. As winter nears, arctic foxes shed their dark fur and begin growing all white fur to blend in with the snow and ice. Their changing color helps keep these foxes hidden year-round.
Changing hunting strategies
Many of the bird species that arctic foxes hunt during the summer migrate south to escape the harsh winter weather. The foxes are left with fewer food choices. While they still hunt some birds, like ptarmigan, on top of the snow, arctic foxes often turn their attention to food found underneath the snow – specifically, lemmings.
Lemmings are small rodents that live on the arctic tundra all year. To survive the cold winters, they remain active under deep snow, moving through tunnels, and search for leaves, roots and berries to eat. The snow insulates them from the cold air above, allowing them to stay active even during the middle of winter.
But how do arctic foxes find lemmings that are hidden underneath the snow? The answer: by listening for their footsteps!
Hearing like a dog
Like other canid species – a fancy way to describe dog-like animals – arctic foxes have very sensitive ears.
Dogs often tilt their heads as they try to tune in to a noise.
James Johnson Photography/Moment
Have you ever seen a dog running through tall grass and then suddenly stop short, tilting its head back and forth? It probably looked like it was listening to something, even though you couldn’t detect what might attract its attention. In fact, there was probably a mouse or vole moving nearby, and your dog was able to hear its footsteps.
What does a mouse or lemming sound like when it runs through the grass or snow? It makes a quiet, high-pitched rustling sound. It sort of sounds like the softest gust of wind causing grass blades to rub against each other.
Most people can’t hear this sound, but your dog and arctic foxes can hear it just fine. Because human beings domesticated dogs, they don’t need to use their special hearing to find food – we make it easy by filling their food bowls every day. But wild canids, including arctic foxes, still very much need this unique ability to survive.
An ambush from above
Arctic foxes spend hours each day roaming across the tundra during winter looking for food. This includes listening for lemmings under the snow. But hearing a lemming is only the first step in getting a meal. Arctic foxes still must catch them.
Once a fox hears a lemming, it becomes almost completely still. The fox then tilts its head back and forth, trying to better locate where the lemming is. It requires careful listening to pinpoint the lemming’s quiet movements in the snow.
The arctic fox zeroes in on a lemming and pounces through the snow.
When a fox is confident it knows exactly where the lemming is, the ambush begins. It will jump straight up in the air, sometimes several feet, and plunge headfirst into the snow with its mouth wide open. If the attack was successful, the fox will emerge from the snow with a lemming in its mouth. Dinner is served.
Although this pouncing technique, known as “mousing,” may seem easy enough, an arctic fox may attempt it hundreds of times per day with little success. It takes practice and persistence.
Hunting in noise
A coyote eats a vole that it caught after plunging into the snow in Yellowstone National Park.
Jacob Job, CC BY-ND
Humans make a lot of noise that makes it harder for predators to find prey. Although arctic foxes live far enough north to avoid most noise pollution, other species including coyotes and red foxes live much farther south, where many more people live.
Coyotes and red foxes also hunt like arctic foxes. The noise from airplanes, vehicles and other engines likely makes it harder for these species to hear rodent footsteps under the snow. And as the human population grows, bringing noise with them as they spread across the globe and into arctic regions, it’s reasonable to assume that arctic foxes will also have a harder time finding food.
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The benefits and harms of jumping into the snow after a sauna
January 24, 2023 – 08:47
But is this procedure so rosy for our body? Is it good to dive into the snow after a bath?
Harm of contrast procedures
Diving into the snow is a shake-up for the human body. Imagine how it feels when it runs out of a 70° bath. outside at -15°. In such conditions, the body begins to urgently rebuild:
• From a relaxed-lazy state in which it was important not to overheat, he activates to keep warm.
• The heart from such a shake works even more actively to protect the heated body from the cold.
• Open pores tend to rapidly shrink.
Everything flips 180° and back when you return to the steam room. Such a restructuring for an unprepared organism will end very sadly. At best, a cold. At worst – severe violations at work.
However, if you approach the process wisely, you can find significant advantages in such extreme sports.
Benefits of bathing in the snow
The body accustomed to changes will perceive this procedure as another useful workout.
It strengthens the heart and blood vessels. The work of the circulatory system as a whole improves. The circulation of blood through the body is accelerated, and it actively pushes out toxins.
It is interesting for women that contrast procedures are useful for burning subcutaneous fat, reducing cellulite, strengthening muscles, and, accordingly, losing weight.
The use of a bath with hardening is also that it slows down aging, smoothes fine wrinkles, and improves immunity.
And, of course, if the procedure brings you pleasure, the body produces the hormone of happiness – endorphin. And with it, the mood rises, efficiency improves, anxiety and stress go away, insomnia disappears.
However, in order to fully experience these 33 pleasures, a long and careful preparation is needed. And it is desirable to start it in parallel with the preparation of the sleigh – in the summer.
Preparing for hardening after the bath
The first stage of preparation for diving into the snow is a contrast shower.
Take it daily. Always start with warm water and end with cold. In both cases, the relatively comfortable temperature at the moment is meant, and not the extreme values that the valve reaches. Gradually increase the difference in temperature and over time you will realize that the contrast shower is really enjoyable. However, you are not yet ready to dive into the snow.
The next step is dousing with cold water. Also repeat daily, starting at a comfortable temperature.
Perform these exercises for at least 4 months. As soon as winter comes, you can try the snow rubdown in the dressing room. At the same time, observe the following order:
Do not freeze your neck and head. At least it won’t do any good.
After a couple of months, you can finally try to fall into fresh fluffy snow. At the same time, put on slippers and run out into the street to dance. You need to move to keep warm.
Feel a burst of energy? Run to dry off and warm up in the steam room!
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Jumping in the snow after a bath: benefits and harms
Sponging with snow after a bath has long become a familiar ritual for many Russians. This process gives indescribable emotions, but is it not dangerous for the body? Is it still possible to jump into the snow straight from the steam room? Answers Tatyana Chernushenko , cardiologist, general practitioner, candidate of medical sciences, member of the Russian Society of Cardiology (RCS) and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Short answer : The decision must be made by the physician, since each person is different and there is a long list of contraindications. In addition, jumping in the snow requires preparation. This will have a strengthening effect on a healthy body, accustomed to sudden changes in temperature. Otherwise, wiping with snow after a steam room can lead to poor health, dizziness and heart problems.
What is the harm in jumping into the snow after a sauna? Are there any contraindications?
It is not worth leaving the steam room in the cold, jumping into a snowdrift, and dousing yourself with ice water if you are not 100 percent sure of an adequate reaction of your body to an extreme procedure. “A sharp temperature drop can cause vasospasm, and, as a result, a heart attack,” says cardiologist Tatyana Chernushenko.
Thus, it is very important to prepare the body for such a procedure, as well as a preliminary consultation with a specialist. It doesn’t matter if your health concerns you. Very often, people do not even suspect that jumping in the snow is contraindicated for them.
Doctors identify a number of diseases in which it is strictly forbidden to jump into the snow from a steam room: hypertension, hypotension, kidney failure, liver failure, bronchial asthma, stomach ulcers, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, epilepsy, encephalitis, diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis, chronic diseases in period of exacerbation. However, with the listed ailments, experts strongly recommend avoiding visiting the bath itself.
What is the use of jumping into the snow after a sauna?
If you approach jumping into the snow from a bath wisely, then, in the absence of contraindications, you can get a lot of benefits from such extreme sports, the doctor believes. Such a shake-up makes the body mobilize forces, speed up the metabolism. “It trains blood vessels, improves blood circulation, activates metabolism, strengthens the immune system, improves skin tone,” explains cardiologist Tatiana Chernushenko.
According to the specialist, there is another important component in the procedure – a beneficial effect on the human psyche. “Jumping in the snow improves mood, increases efficiency, and helps normalize sleep,” adds the doctor.
How to properly prepare for jumping in the snow?
“One of the methods of preparation for diving into the snow is a contrast shower. The next stage is dousing with cold water with a gradual decrease in water temperature. After a couple of months of these manipulations, the body, as a rule, is ready to jump into the snow,” says cardiologist Tatyana Chernushenko.
In addition, you can pre-wipe yourself with snow not on the street, but in the dressing room, at positive ambient temperature.