Let's go on a snowy journey into the Arctic tundra, and meet a new cast of chilly little creatures.
If there was a word to describe the animals of the Arctic, it’s this: resilient. You have to be to survive such intense temperatures, snow, and overall rough (cold!) terrain. Each of these animals is born with special adaptations to enable them to live in such a harsh environment–thick coats, insulated fat storage, and heightened senses (polar bears can smell a seal three feet below the snow, for example). And another thing they all have in common? They are…quite cute.
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Ah, yes, everyone knows these snowmen–the big bears of the north. And adorable as they might be, and despite the fact that they have occasionally tried to sell us Coca Cola over our lifetimes, these fellas are fierce. Watch one animal documentary featuring a polar bear for even two minutes and, undoubtedly, you will see it maim and kill a seal. They are usually born in pairs during the coldest part of winter, deep within their mothers’ dens. Mothers nurse their cubs for as long as 30 (yes, 30!) months.
The wolverine is the largest of the weasel family, and resembles an odd-looking, tiny bear more so than it does a “weasel.” The known X-Man of the same name was given this name for good reason–wolverines are tough cookies. In fact, they are so tough they are known for being able to attack animals larger than themselves. Also, wolverines are polygamists–the males have babies with multiple females (usually around three of them).
It’s not easy to be extremely good looking while also having a sword growing out of your face, but narwhals somehow pull it off. These sea unicorns are quite elusive, mostly found in the fjords of North Eastern Canada, as well as Western Greenland. At five years old, a female narwhal usually begins reproducing–she will mate with a male during the winter months and 14-16 months later give birth (and repeats this every three years).
Belugas are known for being highly sociable and very friendly, and certainly give off this vibe with their little smiling heads and playful attitudes (many of them come right up to humans if given the opportunity–sometimes they even retrieve an iPhone that someone drops). They have expressive faces and are very musical (they’re known as the canaries of the sea). When a baby beluga is born, it’s dark gray in color and transforms into having much whiter skin as it grows older. They reach adulthood around age eight.
Ringed seals are one of the most ubiquitous animals of the Arctic. These guys have dark coats with silver stomachs, small circles on their back (thus the name “ringed”), and an almost feline-like snout. They can be found all over the Arctic lounging about, diving to depths of 150 feet, and looking out for polar bears (their biggest predator). Baby ringed seal pups are born with a white coat and shed it after about three weeks.
Arctic foxes are true creatures of the north and live their entire lives in the Arctic tundra above the northern tree line. Additionally, they are the only mammals native to Iceland. From April to May, they often form monogamous pairs for breeding purposes, but some females are known to live in groups together inside of the same den for many years. The litters usually consist of five to eight pups, and the babies that don’t grow up to breed have been known to stay in the den of lady foxes for the duration of their lives and help tend to the new litters.
Arctic hares are creatures of the high Arctic, living in northern Canada and down to eastern Newfoundland, and can also be found about the Greenland coasts. They are often confused with another species called the mountain hare and scientists say that it’s “possible” that they are actually the same species. Arctic hares have thick, insulated coats that camouflage with their surroundings during the winter months by turning pure white. During the warmer months, their coats are more of a blue-grey color.
Arctic wolves are native to the Arctic tundra areas of North America and Greenland. The pups are born in litters up to 12, usually in a den dug into the ground, when possible. This is not always the case, because occasionally the ground is too frozen to have a hole dug into–but it is the preferred birthing location. Also, they are super cute (just a side note).
One of the more famous arctic animals, reindeer live above the northern tree line of the Arctic tundra as well as on arctic islands. The babies are typically born from May to June. After being born, baby reindeer can begin following the mom around within simply an hour of existing in the world–truly they come into this world raring to go. Full use of legs after one hour? No problem here!
The moose, also known as the elk anywhere other than North America, is the largest of the deer species. However, there is a debate here as well that “elk” and “moose” might be separate species–which, apparently, is a very common thing with arctic animals. Are they one or are they two? No one knows for sure. Anyways, after mating, the males and females do not stay together–they separate and she gives birth to either one or two calves the following spring season. The babies are excellent runners at only five days old.