Arctic Animals

Here are some of the Arctic animal species you may see while you are on an Arctic expedition:

Polar Bear

Polar Bears are the largest types of bear, and might as well be considered the kings of the North. They are slightly more elusive in the Canadian Arctic and in Greenland, but you are sure to spot one in Spitsbergen.

NWP and West Greenland Adventure. Photo by Dave Sandford

Highly recognizable – the walrus population is slowly increasing as protection laws have been implemented. They were nearly hunted to extinction for their highly prized blubber, but the population is making a comeback. They are highly social and live in large packs, and their tusks are used to haul themselves up onto icebergs, banks and rocks.

A group of walrus. Photo by Ben Haggar
Arctic Fox

The arctic fox has adapted to survive the cold harsh winters of the arctic. Their fur changes colour with the seasons for camouflage- white in the winter and brown in the summer.

Arctic Fox. Photo by Roberto Serrini
Arctic Hare

The arctic hare has smaller ears and noses than other hare species in order to retain heat. Also, 20% of their body is composed of fat for extra insulation. Despite this, they are incredibly fast, able to run as fast as 60 kilometres an hour.

An Arctic Hare. Photo by Carolyn Monastra
Beluga Whale

The beluga whale’s colouring allows them to blend with the floating sea ice. They are highly social creatures, usually living in pods of up to ten or more.

A chance encounter with a beluga whale. Photo by Roger Pimenta

The Name Caribou is derived from the Mi’Kmaq word “qualipu”. The Mi’Kmaq, also named Micmac are a First Nation’s people. Caribou have large nostrils to warm up the air prior to breathing it in and have adaptable hooves for both ice and earth terrain.

Arctic adventures around Svalbard. Photo by Dave Sandford

The Musk-ox got its name because of the musk odour that males release during the mating season to attract females. They can be quite elusive, and tend to be seen more inland.

A close- up of a Musk-ox. Photo by Ken Burton

Narwhals are very tricky to spot as their colouring allows them to go unnoticed in the water, though their tusks can occasionally be seen poking above the surface. In addition, they can only be seen in arctic waters and tend to be quite shy.

Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) – male showing tusk Pond Inlet, northern Baffin Island, Nunavut. Photo by Mark Carwardine

There are several seal species that are dominant in the Canadian Arctic, Greenland and Svalbard area including harp seals, hooded seals, bearded seals and ringed seals.

A bearded seal. Photo by Nathan Small
Arctic Wolf

There are 9 subspecies of the grey wolf that can be found in the Arctic regions. They tend to be smaller and have whiter fur than the grey wolf.


Puffins are nicknamed “sea-parrots” or “clowns of the sea” because of their beaks. Their beaks actually change colour depending on the season, turning bright orange during the mating season and a dull gray in the winter.

Puffins in Svalbard. Photo by Daisy Gilardini
Arctic Sea Birds

If you are interested in finding more about the specific seabird species you can see in the Arctic, check out our Arctic Bird blog. You can also find out more about Arctic seabirds with guest blogger and researcher Susan Wong, who details her research onboard assessing the distribution of arctic seabirds.


Orcas tend to be found in the arctic during the summer months. To avoid getting trapped in the ice, they will migrate south for the winter months. Orcas are apex predators, meaning they do not fall prey to any other species.

An orca spotted. Photo by Daisy Gilardini

Wolverines are not actually related to the wolf family but are in fact part of the same family as the weasel. Wolverines can be quite ferocious, sometimes scaring away bears with their snarls and aggressive behaviour. Wolverines are quite elusive, and pictures are hard to come by.

Humpback Whale

Humpback whales are approximately the size a school bus. Similarly to fingerprints for humans, each dorsal fin and fluke is unique to each whale – allowing scientists to identify and track indiviual whales.

Baffin Island and West Greenland Adventure. Photo by Dave Sandford

If you are interested in catching a glimpse of these arctic animals yourself – join us on an expedition to the great north. Have a chat with your preferred travel agent, or contact us directly HERE.