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The arctic fox is the only terrestrial mammal native to Iceland. Without any natural predators, the little furballs thrive in the harsh climate of the country’s interior, but are skittish and difficult to spot. Luckily for those of us without the inclination or patience to find one in the wild, there’s the Arctic Fox Center in Suðavík, near Ísafjörður.
Aside from being a great resource for learning about the animals, the Arctic Fox Center doubles as a recovery home for orphaned or injured foxes before they’re re-released. During our visit, there were two orphaned pups residing in the cage.
With round, compact bodies, bushy tails and thick fur that keeps them warm during the harsh northern winters, Arctic foxes are incredibly cute. Especially the young ones. The two which we saw in Suðavík were wary of humans, darting back inside their burrow at our slightest movement. But as long as we kept still, they’d sneak out and inspect their food dish, hoping it had magically replenished itself.
Even when the center doesn’t have any residents, it’s worth stopping by for the exhibits. The foxes are fascinating creatures, which change color with the season and form monogamous pairs. The center explains all this, and goes into Iceland’s rocky history with the fox. Despite overzealous hunting in the 19th century, their numbers have recovered and there’s no longer any reason to fear for the species’ survival.
This was an unexpected highlight of our time in the Westfjords. The center even has a cafe and small restaurant with good Wi-Fi, and we ended up staying in Suðavík a lot longer than planned.