Animals in the Arctic



Below you can find a complete list of Arctic animals. We currently track 41 animals in the Arctic and are adding more every day!

The Arctic is the area around the North Pole that used to be known for being cold year-round. With climate change, temperatures have reached as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which has disturbed the habitat of some of its most iconic animals. The Arctic is made up mostly of the Arctic ocean, its many islands, and the far northern lands of Europe, Asia, Canada, and Alaska. Seas that are part of the Arctic Ocean include the Chukchi Sea, the East Siberian Sea, the Barents Sea, the Laptev Sea, the Greenland Sea, the Kara Sea, and the Norwegian Sea.

During the winter months, the Arctic is in perpetual night, while during the summer the sun shines on most areas for most of the day. Much of the Arctic is tundra, which means that the temperatures are so cold and the amount of sunlight so scant that trees don’t grow there. The subsoil in the Arctic tundra is also permanently frozen and is called permafrost, though it too is melting in places. Still, wildlife in the Arctic is unique and abundant, even though some of it is endangered.

The Official National Animal of the Arctic

The official national animal of the Arctic is the polar bear. Here are some facts about the polar bear:

The polar bear is the largest bear and the largest carnivore in the world, larger even than the grizzly. An adult male or boar can weigh between 770 and 1540 pounds, while a female or sow weighs about half that. It is unique for its white fur, though this is an optical illusion. The bear has two layers of fur. They are the underfur and the guard hairs, which are actually transparent. Interestingly, the polar bear’s skin is black. It is found on the islands of the Arctic Ocean and on the ice floes of its seas, and so is considered a marine mammal by scientists.

Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in the Arctic

The top wild animals in the Arctic can be found in United States’ Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is a 19.6 million acre spread found in northeastern Alaska. Among other animals, a person can witness the spring migration of the porcupine caribou herd. Animals can also be seen on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which is even bigger than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at 23 million acres.

Other places to see Arctic animals are in the Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area, Polar Bear Pass, and Coburg Island in Nunavut, Canada.

The Most Dangerous Animals In the Arctic Today

  • Polar bear — As cuddlesome as it looks, the Arctic’s national animal is dangerous. There have been 73 known attacks by polar bears, and people died in 20 of them. Being in a group doesn’t help, as most of these attacks happened to at least two people traveling together.
  • Grizzly bear — This huge bear also attacks humans, though the attacks are rare. Alaska saw 10 fatal attacks by bears between 2000 and 2017 and seven of them were caused by brown hears, which include the grizzly.
  • Wolverine — The wolverine is a stocky and powerfully built animal that looks like a cross between a bear and a weasel. It is known to be aggressive and routinely kills prey much larger than itself, but there are no reports that it has attacked humans. Still, this animal deserves respect.
  • Canada lynx — This medium-sized wild cat is much more dangerous to the snowshoe hare than to humans, but if it’s cornered or threatened, it will defend itself ferociously.

Endangered Animals In the Arctic

  • The polar bear. This magnificent animal is considered vulnerable.
  • Walrus. This pinniped is also considered vulnerable.
  • The long-tailed duck, which breeds in the tundra pools, is vulnerable.
  • Sei whale. This baleen whale was hunted until it nearly became extinct, and it remains endangered even though it’s protected.

Arctic Ocean Animals

Baleen Whale

“Sings” a whale song during breeding season.

Barnacle

Closely related to crabs and lobsters!

Bird

Not all birds are able to fly!

Blue Whale

The largest animal on Earth

Codfish

They eat other fish

Colossal Squid

Can survive eating a single fish for months

Cookiecutter Shark

The cookiecutter shark takes its name because it leaves a cookie-shaped bite hole in its prey.

Crab

There are 93 different crab groups

Crappie Fish

The crappie is one of the most popular freshwater fish in North America.

Cuttlefish

Found throughout the world's oceans!

Fin Whale

Found throughout ocean waters worldwide!

Fish

Respire through the gills on their heads!

Fly

There are more than 240,000 different species!

Fur Seal

Found only in the Northern Hemisphere!

Greenland Shark

This shark has the longest lifespan of any vertebrate.

Harp Seal

The harp seal can migrate up to 3,000 miles every year

Humpback Whale

There are thought to be 80,000 left in the wild!

Insects

There are an estimated 30 million species!

Jellyfish

Have tentacles around their mouths!

Killer Whale

Typically consumes over 200 kg of food a day!

King Crab

Can have a leg span of nearly 2 meters!

Krill

The krill is perhaps the most important animal in the marine ecosystem!

Lobster

Have been known to reach 100 years old!

Polar Bear

Could be extinct within the next 30 years!

Puffin

Can remain in the water for up to 2 minutes!

Reindeer

Also known as the Caribou

Salmon Shark

Salmon sharks are related to Great Whites.

Seal

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Sei Whale

This whale is one of the fastest of the cetaceans

Shark

No shark species has any bones in their bodies

Shrimp

There are 2,000 different species worldwide!

Sleeper Shark

The Greenland shark is one of the longest living vertebrates in the world.

Snail

There are nearly 1,000 different species!

Snowy Owl

One of the largest owl species in the world!

Sponge

There are more than 9,000 known species!

Squid

Some species are known to have 10 arms!

Steller’s Sea Cow

Hunted to extinction in 17 years!

Turtles

Some species of aquatic turtles can get up to 70 percent of their oxygen through their butt.

Walrus

Inhabits the freezing waters of the Arctic Circle!

Wandering Albatross

Featured in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Woolly Mammoth

Tusks grew to 16ft long!

Arctic Ocean Animals List

Animals in the Arctic FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What animals live in the Arctic?

Though the Arctic seems barren sometimes, it isn’t. It is home to a great many animals, including the ones mentioned. Others are the tundra wolf, a gray wolf subspecies, reindeer, caribou and Arctic foxes and hares. By the way, one of the more interesting facts about Arctic wildlife is the difference between reindeer and caribou. Basically, there isn’t any. They are both Rangifer tarandus. They’re called reindeer in Europe. In North America they’re called caribou if they’re wild, and if they’re tame, they’re called reindeer.

Other Arctic animals are the Ungava brown bear, which is probably extinct. There’s the Arctic wolf, which like many Arctic animals, has a thick white coat; the Arctic shrew, the Arctic ground squirrel, the red fox, moose, muskrats and lemmings. Seals include the ribbon seal, the ringed seal, and the Northern elephant seal. Harbor and harp seals are also found in the Arctic.

Cetaceans include the harbor porpoise, the Narwhal, the beluga whale, the bowhead whale and the blue whale, the largest animal on earth. Killer whales also visit the sea around the Arctic. The cold northern seas are also abundant in fish, including Arctic char, Atlantic and pink salmon, haddock, the Greenland shark and the viviparous eelpout, a unique fish that breathes air, gives birth to live young and nurses them while they’re still in the womb. Population of cod are still healthy in the Barents Sea.

Many of the birds who live in or visit the Arctic are sea birds, save the snowy owl and the ptarmigan. Sea birds include the Arctic tern, the kittiwake, the fulmar, the black guillemot, the Arctic skua, the glaucous gull, the ivory gull, the red or gray phalarope and the pink-footed goose.

Another of the Arctic’s interesting facts is hat it is even home to insects. Fifteen hundred species of insects live past the tree line in Canada, and 350 species are found in the coldest parts of the Arctic. There are even mosquitoes, butterflies and moths, but most of the insects so far north are flies. Spiders and worms can also be found in the tundra.

Are penguins Arctic animals?

Interestingly, penguins are not found in the Arctic. Only the Galapagos penguin lives in the Northern Hemisphere, and it lives near the equator. Auks, including the now extinct great auk, seem to have replaced penguins in the Northern Hemisphere.

Is a bald eagle an Arctic animal?

Yes, this iconic sea eagle is indeed found in the Arctic.

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