Much has been written about the Arctic marble fox, despite not much being known about it. Online commentators and glittery-eyed bloggers pine over its unique coloring, and debate about whether or not it is naturally occurring. (It isn’t.)
It has been labeled a myth, likened to creatures from fantasy movies and discussed with that starry-eyed hopefulness that doesn’t really inform anyone of anything. What is a marble fox? It is an Arctic fox with unusual coloration—mostly white with a bit of black, a bit like a marble cake!
What is a Canadian / Marble Arctic fox? Despite much online hullabaloo about this near-virally popular bundle of foxy cuteness, the Marble Arctic fox is not actually a particular species. Nor is the Canadian Marble fox, or even a Canadian fox. In this context, ‘Canadian’ is a geographic signifier and ‘marble’ is a descriptor. So, the famed and fabled fox of this name is simply an Arctic fox. But that doesn’t make it any less spectacular!
Arctic foxes have two primary morphs, white and blue. 99% of Arctic foxes are white, despite the blue morph being technically, genetically, dominant. Many Arctic foxes actually lose their whiteness during summer months, and turn into brownish-grey foxes. To me, these are in some ways even more mesmerizing than marble foxes.
Arctic foxes with a marble complexion are predominantly white, with dark markings accentuating the inside rim of their ears, and highlighting their eyebrows and eyes. Sometimes these markings spread a bit further to include the thin, or connect on the forehead. The word ‘marble’ is basically used to describe any Arctic fox which has attractive, symmetrical dark markings on its face, head and ears. And yes, they are adorable!
According to the Fur Commission USA, the first Arctic marble fox was reportedly born from a silver fox litter in Norway in 1945, at the farm of a man named Sverre Omber. It was the result of a genetic mutation, or color phase, when breeding together a red fox and an Arctic fox. It is therefore regarded a non-naturally occurring color morph.
Where do marble foxes live? As marble foxes are not naturally occurring, they live wherever they are artificially bred, or wherever they are raised thereafter. However, the Arctic fox from which they are bred are native to northern Canada and other land masses within the Arctic Circle. The Canadian fox is a geographical term to name (mostly) Arctic foxes which call Canada home.
How long do marble foxes live as pets?
Arctic marble foxes can easily live up to 10 years in captivity, or even as long as 15 years. This is much longer than they live in the wild—reportedly they only live up to 5 years in the ‘real world’.
This may all sound rosy, but its increased longevity in captive environments does not mean it is necessarily a good idea to keep an Arctic marble fox as a pet! Foxes are not easy pets to deal with. There are many factors to consider—it is a big commitment, even for a seasoned pet keeper. However, if you are determined (or just plain curious), then this guide will help you on your way to keeping an Arctic marble fox as a pet.
Here’s what I’ll cover:
- Arctic marble fox legal issues: states where they are legal and illegal
- How to handle marble foxes
- How to settle a marble fox into a new environment
- How to care for a Canadian or Arctic marble fox
- Can marble foxes live with other pets?
- Fox scents and odors
- Marble fox de-fanging
- Marble fox breeding
- How much does a marble fox cost?
- Reputable fox breeders
This is your one-stop shop for all the information you need about keeping an Arctic marble fox. If you have any questions, pop them in the comments below, or look for an expert/breeder near you, who can answer any queries you may have!
On with the show.
#1: Marble fox legal issues: Where are they legal/illegal?
Do your own research into this; laws can change, and some are nebulous and difficult to interpret unless you speak to an official. Some states, such as Arkansas, Alaska and Indiana, may allow the keeping of marble foxes. Most states, however, have a comprehensive blanket ban on keeping exotic, or wild, animals, as pets.
One of the issues facing lawmakers is that animals such as foxes often carry rabies. Green-lighting the captive housing of such an animal would undoubtedly cause nasty repercussions among the legal bodies at work. Mostly, it is a case of state entities covering their own backs. No one wants a lawsuit!
On top of this, you must consider the legal issues facing your chosen veterinarian—that is, if you can find one who is willing to commit to helping you look after your domesticated wild animal for the duration of its life.
Many vets refuse to treat exotic animals, even if they are dying. There are complications. Some are afraid the owner will sue them if it dies in their hands. Some are afraid of the legal repercussions if one of their assistants is harmed while treating it. Some may simply not have the facilities to hold it while it recovers from surgery.
NEVER spend more than $600 on a regular fox—if you do, you are being ripped off, and cannot trust the seller. Only buy from someone whom you know and trust. And make sure you fully understand the permissions afforded to you in your state (and possibly district/county – laws vary).
If you do manage to find a reputable breeder (check below for a list of examples), make sure you get a BILL OF SALE with the breeder’s USDA license on it. This is proof that the fox is legal in the state of purchase.
#2: How should you handle a marble fox?
Fox kit (youngling):
It is best to handle baby foxes, or fox kits, frequently, so that they get used to contact with humans. Under six months of age, foxes are fearless, so this is the best time to interact as much possible.
Remember also to talk to your fox! It may feel silly at first, but this will show the fox that you are giving it your full attention. It will warm to you, and become familiar with the sound of your voice, as well as the way you look and smell.
Assuming you got your fox from a reputable and reliable breeder, it should already be properly bonded, or socialized. It should also have been bottle-fed. This is an integral part of the bonding process.
If your fox is terrified of being touched by you, it has not received adequate care in its first weeks or months of life.
If you buy an adult fox and they are shy, or if you just want to cultivate a friendlier bond between you and your fox, here are a few ideas:
- Sit or lie down on the floor nearby your fox.
- Talk to your fox with a gentle voice. Don’t worry, it will hear you—its giant ears will make sure of that!
- Hold a treat in your hand which you know your fox particularly likes. Some like whole eggs—foxes are notorious for entering chicken coops and demolishing the entire egg crop, but maybe yours likes something different.
- Extend your arm towards the fox and open up your hand. If it doesn’t take it, don’t worry. Depending on how comfortable your fox is with you, it may take several attempts at this, or even a few days.
- Chances are, when your fox sees the treat, they will want it, but be afraid to take it straight away. Here’s the tricky part for you: you mustn’t give the fox the treat unless they take it from your hand! Remember, the purpose of this exercise is to show your fox that they can trust you—and be close to you.
If you’ve never done this before, the mere sight of you lying on the floor may perplex, or even scare, your fox. But don’t fret, just repeat. Be gentle, and patient.
- When your fox finally takes the treat from your hand, stay with him or her. If the fox scarpers with the treat to eat it in privacy, it will probably still return for another—and another!
- The next step is to do the same but to also extend a finger out to pet its nose. Again, it may take a few attempts at this before your fox lets you touch its nose without running away.
- Repeat this every day. It may take a while, but your fox should gradually become more trusting and friendly.
- You will be tickling the inside of your fox’s ears in no time!
#3: How to settle a marble fox into a new environment
For fox kits
Provide it with a large cage. A dog kennel will do. Put a box inside where the fox can hide, and something soft on the floor to cover a quarter of the enclosure. If possible, place the cage on top of a table, or something of similar height. This way, the fox will not feel so vulnerable.
Place a litter pan near the door of the cage. A small cardboard box will do. If the fox uses it straight away, great! If not, give it time. Put the food and water dishes as close to the door as you can. Once your fox seems a bit more comfortable and settled, try the above steps to give it a treat from your hand.
For adult foxes
Follow the above steps (under the adult fox section of ‘How should you handle a marble fox?’) to help your fox learn to trust you. Provide the same as for a fox kit: a large cage, litter box, food and water dishes close to the cage door, and so on.
Talk to your fox and keep him or company, as much as possible. Foxes don’t like constant petting—let your fox make the choice, but give it the option. You can also introduce toys, such as a tug-of-war rope, squeaky toys or similar.
If your fox bites you, tell it sternly, NO BITE, and tap it on the nose. The key is with timing—if you are too late, the fox will not understand the connection between the transgression and the punishment/lesson.
Aggressive fox kits
If you get a fox kit that is more than a few weeks old and is exhibiting aggressive behavior, be reassured that this is probably due to the change of environment. Being around new people can be stressful for baby foxes.
You must let the fox kit settle in its new home. If a fox gets too scared, it may bite. Using your hand to play ‘bite’ with your fox is NOT ADVISED: foxes have very sharp teeth and surprisingly strong jaws. Use a stuffed animal instead. It may be cute and playful to have a fox kit bite your finger, but it will carry this habit into adulthood.
Foxes can be triggered by certain noises or movements, so be mindful of their temperaments. Some foxes also don’t like to be petted in an area where they can’t see your hand, so be aware of your fox’s line of sight when you are interacting.
If your fox kit is behaving aggressively, try these steps:
- Leave the fox for a while in a large cage. This gives the fox a domain in which it feels safe, but also means it has enough room to walk around.
- Do NOT introduce it to new people—the more new faces it sees (and new voices, new smells, etc.), the more agitated it will become.
- Do NOT attempt any type of training. Let it be.
- Do NOT pick up your fox kit. It needs its own space. It will come to you eventually, but only in its own time.
- DO let him or her see you, and talk to your fox in a soft voice. The more familiar they become with you and your voice, the more likely they are to open up to your affections.
- Once your fox is settled, offer them a treat from your hand.
It may take up to a few weeks for your fox kit to fully adjust, but adjust it will! Some people recommend leaving the TV set on low if you leave house, so that the silence doesn’t get overbearing.
#4: How do you care for a Canadian or Arctic marble fox?
Enclosure requirements—indoor or outdoor?
Foxes love the outdoors—it’s where they belong. If you keep a fox in your house, expect it to mark your carpet, furniture, clothes and blankets. Urine left to fester smells terrible in no time at all. Tip: tile floors are easier to clean than carpets! The best thing is to provide a securely fenced outdoor area in which it can roam freely.
For the cage, a large dog-style kennel will be big enough.
How big will a marble fox get?
Males range from 18 to 27 inches (46-68cm), while females average 20 inches (52cm). they weigh approximately 7-21 lbs and 3-8 lbs respectively.
Overall, if your fox spends most of its time outdoors, it will be better for you. However, it is better to keep fox kits indoors for more time for effective bonding and better security. Once it is 6 months old, treat it like an adult.
Cleaning: How to remove fox odor in their fox pen?
Clean the cage with vinegar, water and a little dish soap. The dish soap helps to deter flies. You can use this mixture to spray the bottom of their litter pans (before adding litter). Let it dry, add newspaper, followed by a thin layer of litter. Fly strips are also invaluable in catching and deterring flies.
Clean the cage twice at week at first, and adjust according to your fox’s (or foxes’) habits.
Baking soda can also effectively remove stubborn stains. Sprinkle baking soda, then pour a little vinegar over it. Let the foam build and sit for a minute until it is a thick crust, then use a knife to remove it.
Spaying or neutering your fox should reduce the pungency of its markings, but don’t expect it to go away completely!
Marble fox diet: What do they eat?
Foxes are not particularly fussy eaters. They will eat dry dog food, ground cooked chicken or turkey, gizzards, eggs, giblets, plus others meats. Some foxes happily chomp away on vegetables and fruit. Provide a variety of foods to ensure proper nutrition. Just remember:
- If you feed your fox live prey, such as mice or rats, and allow it to hunt them, it may start to think all small animals are fair game.
- If you feed your fox raw food, he or she may require frequent worming.
- Grain-free dog or cat food seems to be encourage healthier skin and fur.
- Coconut oil can be rubbed into their fur and skin to make it shinier and healthier.
- Sweet foods, such as marshmallows, may be a tasty treat, but do not provide much nutrition. Limit these foods to once a week, at most.
Feed your foxes twice daily, and adjust according to their tastes. If your fox marks in its food or water dish, place the dishes inside something, like a milk crate or sturdy cardboard box. This way, only their head can access the dish.
Marble fox accessories:
If you want to take your fox for a walk, a harness is advisable. Start using the harness at a young age. However, the general public’s inquisitiveness might be a hindrance, and cause your fox distress. The best way to avoid this is by just walking the fox on your own property.
How to bond with foxes?
A bored fox is a destructive fox. What can you do to keep your fox entertained?
Foxes love squeaky toys. They are also thieves by nature, and will hide objects. For this reason, the more toys, the better! You should also ‘fox-proof’ your home, to avoid certain things going missing.
Foxes love to play with each other, or with other animals. You can also re-arrange its pen once in a while. Small changes go a long way. Hiding places and climbing spots and space to explore will all keep your fox entertained, occupied, and mentally healthy.
#5: Can marble foxes live with other pets?
This is for those who also have other animals as pets, be they dogs or cats
Yes – foxes love to have playmates. They are social creatures and love to have companions with which to spend their time. They are energetic animals with playful temperaments, and also like to engage in grooming.
#6: Fox scents and odors
Foxes have scent glands that produce a skunk-like odor when the fox feels threatened. You can surgically remove this gland (though it is better just to make sure the fox feels safe, I think!), but it will not eliminate the urine odor.
The removal of scent glands is not recommended.
It is a complex procedure – more so than a skunk’s scent gland – and can be unsafe or even deadly. Leave the glands as they are.
#7: Marble fox de-fanging
Thankfully, this is definitely not recommended. NEVER even CONSIDER having a fox’s canine teeth removed. This will not assist in taming your fox, and could result in breaking the fox’s jaw. It is CRUEL—do not do it.
#8: Marble fox breeding
Spaying and neutering foxes
Unless you plan on breeding foxes, I recommend having him neutered, or her spayed. Ideally, this should be performed by 6 months of age, or by 12 months at the latest.
Spaying and neutering should reduce the pungency of their markings, but not eliminate it entirely. It is imperative to find a vet who is familiar with this procedure, or at least willing to research prior the procedure!
#9: How much does a marble fox cost?
Like I said earlier, if you spend more than $600 on a regular fox, you are being ripped off. Russian foxes, on the other hand, cost at least $8,000. As of latest research, there is only one breeder of Russian foxes in the United States, and he is based in Florida. Fennec foxes typically sell for $2,500-$3,000.
It is a difficult thing to put a price on a marble Arctic fox, because people are attracted to different levels of marbling, and attractiveness is subjective. My advice is to thoroughly consider your options before making any kind of purchase, and seek the opinion of a veteran fox keeper!
#10: Reputable fox breeders
Breeders in the USA:
- Lost River Game Farm (IN)
- Tiny Tracks (IN)
- Hillview Exotics (OH)
- Wess Exotic Animals (OH)
Breeders to AVOID:
- TAME THE WILD, from Quebec, Canada
- ANDREW KOZAK, also known as Krayan Koz or Ziggy Koz, from New Jersey
- Wesley Kenyon, Florida
Are marble foxes good pets?
What do you think? They require:
- A lot of maintenance – feeding twice daily and regular cleaning.
- Regular handling – especially when they are young.
- A hefty upfront of cost – of the animal itself, plus cage, fencing, toys, vaccinations, spaying/neutering – plus regular payments for jabs, worming, vet fees and food.
- A constant presence – you cannot simply take your fox into the kennels if you want to take a vacation, nor can you leave it in the charge of someone without a license.
Marble foxes are great exotic pets but are not for everyone. If, after reading this, you are still thinking of going down this road, then prepare yourself mentally! It’s going to be a long and expensive journey, but hopefully a rewarding one!
As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and share this article with anyone who you think might like to keep a fox as a pet!