Meeting new people can be the most exciting experience of your life. You can learn new things. But rarely do you meet scientists or people who have been to the far reaches of the Earth like the Arctic.
This time I got to meet such an individual at the most unlikely of places, at a garden party thrown by my neighbor. As we started talking, I discovered that the Arctic is not as devoid of fauna as we are most likely to think. Instead, it has quite a rich animal life.
Animals that are in the arctic:
- Polar bears
- Beluga whales
- Arctic fox
- Arctic wolves
- Snowy owls
Even though the Arctic region has a limited amount of vegetation and remains covered in ice for a better part of the year, it is home to many animals.
Moreover, many of these animals are land-dwelling ones, which seemed to be quite a surprise for me.
Table of Contents
- 1. Seals
- 2. Polar Bears
- 3. Beluga Whales
- 4. Arctic Fox
- 5. Narwhals
- 6. Puffins
- 7. Orcas
- 8. Arctic Wolves
- 9. Snowy Owls
Seals are unique species as they are semi-aquatic mammals and are known as pinnipeds or fin-footed.
You will find several species of seals living in the Arctic and the Antarctic. In the Arctic, you will discover six seals species: harp, hooded, ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon.
If you observe the lifecycle of a seal, you will find it associated with the sea and the ice.
For example, the harp seals live around the edge of the ice most of the time. But you will find them migrating southwards in the spring in search of slightly warmer waters to breed.
Other types of seals need a lot of ice to breed. In addition, they need the covering of ice to give birth to pups and rear them.
2. Polar Bears
Polar bears are one of the most formidable predators of the Arctic. The thick white coat of fur easily distinguishes the polar bears from other bears.
Polar bears are known to be excellent hunters. They can wait for several hours for a seal to come up for air.
When the bear catches a seal, the prey will find it difficult to free itself from the predator’s clutches, even though a seal has highly slippery skin.
Polar bears are also excellent swimmers, and they swim at a speed of six miles per hour. If you have ever seen a polar bear swim, you will know that it uses its hind limbs like a rudder for maneuvering.
Unfortunately, they are also one of the most endangered species. Polar bears are considered to be endangered as their numbers are dwindling due to climate change.
3. Beluga Whales
Beluga whales or white whales are easily distinguished from other whales by the color of their skin. The Beluga whales are also highly social animals, and they live in small communities called pods.
Although the whales are born grey, they slowly change color and become white as they mature.
Belugas are intelligent creatures who communicate amongst themselves in their pod. Along with that, Belugas start complex vocalization within hours of their birth.
If you observe the behavior of Belugas, you will find that although they are found only in the coldest parts of the Arctic waters, they migrate southwards when the waters of the Arctic freeze.
The Belugas are hunted by polar bears, narwhals, and indigenous people, leading to their dwindling numbers.
4. Arctic Fox
These beautiful white foxes are found only in the Arctic region. The Arctic fox is small and has a round and compact body. This prevents the creature from losing bodily heat.
Additionally, the white fur of the Arctic fox makes it easy for the animal to blend in with its surroundings.
The Arctic fox also has a thick coat that allows it to conserve heat, especially during winter. However, Arctic foxes are also endangered species, and the primary reason for this is the loss of habitat.
Due to climate change, the reduction in the available sea ice and loss of tundra habitat has led to the dwindling number of Arctic foxes.
The Arctic fox primarily feeds on lemmings, voles, seal pups, as well as sea birds and if food is scarce, the Arctic foxes will begin scavenging and are known to feed on carrion as well.
The average size of a male Arctic fox is 55 cm, and a female is 50 cm. Thus, the size of these animals is relatively small.
The narwhal is easily distinguished from other whales because of its protruding tusk from its head.
The narwhals inhabit the cold seas of the Arctic, and its natural habitat is the Canadian Arctic along with the icy cold waters surrounding Greenland as well as the upper reaches of Russia.
The narwhal, like the polar bear and the belugas, is dependent on sea ice for survival. These creatures require cold temperatures and feeding grounds with an excellent supply of cuttlefish, shrimp, and arm-hook squid.
During winter, narwhals swim southwards in pods of tens and hundreds for better hunting grounds. It does so primarily because the upper reaches of the Arctic freeze during winter and the food available reduces.
A sad fact about narwhals is that these creatures have been mercilessly hunted. They were hunted in the past and even in the present for their tusk. This has led to the narwhal becoming an endangered species.
Puffins are unique birds that are found nesting along the sea coasts of the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. The primary food of these birds is fish which the seas in this region are replete with.
These colorful birds are often found with several fishes in their beaks. You can also catch these birds dive-bombing from the cliffs to catch fish.
Puffins are found nesting in crevices or holes in rocks and they are not natural nest builders. They always breed in colonies, and you will always see puffins nesting together.
A unique characteristic of these birds is that their beaks change color during the breeding season. You will find that their beaks turn bright orange every spring in anticipation of the mating season.
The Puffins are often called the ‘clowns’ of the region for their ungainly appearance and bright orange beaks. But there are beautiful birds that add to the fauna of the area.
Orcas are carnivores, and they are found in almost all oceans. But you will find these inhabiting the waters in the Arctic region as they can go deep into the ice packs to hunt for seals.
They are primarily found in the calm waters of the sub-polar regions. You will not see orcas in the waters covered in ice, but the areas with less ice are the favorite hunting grounds of the orcas.
This species of whales are easily distinguished from others by the dorsal fins that protrude out of the water.
The orcas are intelligent creatures and are known to communicate with each other through pulsed calls and whistles.
A unique feature of the orca physiology is that the creature has an insulating layer of fat beneath its skin to protect it against cold Arctic temperatures.
8. Arctic Wolves
The Arctic wolf is the least endangered species in the region. The primary reason for this is that its habitat is not threatened by human encroachment.
The vast swathes of the Arctic region where you will find the Arctic wolf are dry and barren. Moreover, its hunting grounds are also remote regions of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, where you will mostly find glaciers, ice fields, and frozen lakes.
The isolation of the habitat of the Arctic wolf makes it easier for the creature to survive the onslaught of human interference.
An Arctic wolf will rarely come across a human being, making it easier for it to stay and not make it to the list of endangered species.
The Arctic wolves do not live in dens or migrate during winter. Instead, it lives in the cold Arctic during winter. It can survive winter due to its stocky build. Its short legs and short muzzles allow it to retain body heat.
9. Snowy Owls
The arctic is a rugged region to survive, but it is the best place for the snowy owl to stay. The white feathers of the owl allow it to blend in with its environment.
The snowy owl can survive the harsh cold because feathers cover its entire body, including its feet. The massive size of the bird and the thick covering of feathers also make the bird the heaviest in the owl family.
Being a predatory bird, it has to hunt to survive. The snowy owl primarily survives on small rodents and other similar creatures.
They have excellent hearing and eyesight that help them locate prey. The thick covering of feathers also muffles the approach of the owl, which catches their prey off guard.
This makes the snowy owl one of the best hunters in the sky. Some snowy owls are known to consume their prey whole and then regurgitate the bones.
The animals that are found in the Arctic are seals, polar bears, beluga whales, arctic foxes, narwhals, puffins, orcas, arctic wolves, and snowy owls.