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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Northern Exposure

It's possible that his
mustache made it
all the way.
On this day in 1909, Robert Peary's expedition reached the North Pole, the first expedition to do so. The claim was disputed by another man named Cook who claimed to have reached the North Pole a year earlier. After some dispute, Congress formally recognized Peary's claim in 1911.
The thing is, they were both wrong. Peary was the closer of the two, but he was probably about 30 miles short. That's still pretty good considering that it was 1909.
It wasn't until 1952, that someone actually made it to the true North Pole, but that really doesn't diminish Peary's accomplishment in my opinion (especially since that guy, Fletcher, went there in a plane.)
I'd be willing to bet that Peary and his small expedition encountered a few of these little guys along their way. 
"I (I,I...) Don't wanna know your name. . . Cuz you don't look the same . . .
The way you did befo-o-o-o-o-re . . ."
This is the Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus), and the only place to see these hearty little animals in the wild is in the areas on this map marked in blue.

Oh, wait. Sorry. I think that's the coverage map for my cell phone plan.
The Arctic Fox's are built for frigid environments. Their legs and ears are shorter which means it requires less circulation to keep their extremities warm. They have a thick layer of body fat and this really interesting countercurrent heat exchange system in their paws that allows them to retain more of their body heat. Plus they are pretty wily - even for foxes. Sometimes survival in the North means you have to steal food from a Polar Bear. I found a pretty cool video on
Gutsy little buggers, those Arctic Fox. I suppose you'd have to be to survive up in those blue areas, though.
"Zzz . . . you screamed and e-e-everybody comes a-running . . . zzz . . ."

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