Amazing Arctic Animals

Arctic Fox Lemming Seals Ptarmigan
Arctic Hare Muskox Vole Puffin
Arctic Wolf Polar Bear Walrus Snowy Owl
Caribou Sea otters Whales Learn More Have Fun


Learn More - All things Arctic

Watch the Northern Lights Arctic Poppies & Plants even plants adapt! Sir Richard Attenborough's Frozen Planet!
Watch the sunrise and set in the Arctic Endangered Species Map Track Polar Bears Track Narwhals
Listen to Alaska natives talk about climate change Watch Arctic Ice over last 30 years Report about warming Arctic NBC News




Arctic and Habitat FUN

Build your own habitat! Feed the animals in the zoo! Great Games
Wumps World Where do I live?  
Polar Bears Pairs & Polar Bear Racing Arctic Jigsaw Puzles  





Jigsaw Puzzles

Arctic Bay Arctic Fox Arctic Kayak
Polar Bear Jigsaw Arctic Ship Sled Dog







caribou herd
Caribou Profile

Where Caribou Live

Caribou live on the Arctic Tundra. They are they only species of deer that people have tamed.  In North America they look like elk.   In Northern Europe they look like reindeer.  They are small. Some weigh  240 – 700 pounds.  They are only 4-5 feet high. Their antlers can be 4 feet wide. They migrate about 1600 miles each year. Caribou live 7-15 years. They have one calf a year.


What Caribou Eat
In summer they go north to eat the grass and plants of the tundra. They can eat 12 pounds of food each day. When the first snow falls each year, the caribou go south again.  In the winter they eat the lichens on bark, rocks, and under the snow.

What eats them?

Wolves and bears are the animals that like to have caribou for dinner! Eagles and lynx can kill young calfs, too. Some people think caribou let predtors eat them. This is not true. Caribou are very good at telling if an animal is going to attack. If a wolf is not hungry he will not kill a caribou. So sometimes people see a herd of caribou paying no attention when a wolf walks through the herd.


Caribou communication

Caribou cannot talk like we do. They use they way they behave to communicate. Caribou warn their herd of danger. Usually the hold their heads down and walk very slowly. When a preditor appoaches the caribou will put his tail in the air, hold his head high, and run. When other caribou see this they all begin to run away from the danger.


Caribou have adapted well to the Arctic.  Their hair is long. In winter their hair is hollow inside. It traps air to keep warmth in. This hollow hair also helps the caribou cross rivers and lakes after spring thaws. It acts like a floatie. Caribou have four hoofed "toes" on each foot. They usually walk on the two larger ones, like a cow does. When they are in snow, the extra "toes" spread out wide like snow-shoes. This lets the caribou walk on deep snow.


Arctic Hare

ArcticHare fightingHare blendingIn

Where Arctic Hare Live

Arctic hare live in the North American tundra. They are very different from the southern cousins.  They do not hibernate. Sometimes they work together. Some will rest and feed. Others will stand guard. When frightened they stand on their hind legs, look for danger, and hop away fast.  They can run 40 miles an hour.

What Arctic Hares Eat

They find woody plants, moss, and lichens to eat in winter. In summer they eat buds, berries, leaves, roots, and bark.

What eats them

Arctic wolves are the biggest threat to Arctic Hare. Arctic Fox, and birds of prey will kill young hare. Sometimes even bear will catch the hare.

Hare Communication

Hares use smells to communicate. They also use body language to show danger and other things. See the Arctic Hare Boxing



Thick fur and short ears help them keep warm. To save energy they tuck their tails, paws and ears in and sit still for hours. Be sitting still they save energy. They dig in the snow to make a snow cave.  Then they huddle together to help keep each other warm. In the winter they are white like snow. Some people think the black part of their ear helps absorb warm sun shine. Even their black eyelashes help. They are like sunglasses. The help the hare see when it is very bright. Click to print a picture!

In the summer they change color so they look like the ground or rocks.  They have one litter in spring or summer. Each litter has two to eight babies.  They grow fast. By September they are grown up. They are bigger than our rabbits. They use their big strong arms and sharp long claws to dig through the snow.  2.1





muskox baby
muskox summer
herd of muskox

Where they Live

Muskox are large animals.  They look like bison.  Their name comes from their smell. They smell like musk.They have wool like sheep. Most are wild and live in the Arctic. That means they live in Greenland, Canada. They have died out in other countries of the Arctic. Some live on farms in Alaska. People use their wool to make warm clothes. Watch Muskox

What they eat
Muskox are gentle animals.  They eat only plants. They like moss and woody plants. They like flowers and lichens, too.

What eats them

Muskox live in herds of 10-20. When a wolf attacks they circle around their young.  They use their tusks to toss the wolf into the air.  When the wolf lands they stomp on it. People kill the ox for food. Sometimes a polar bear will eat a calf.


Muskox bray to communicate with their calves. The use other sounds to communicate with the herd.


Their thick brown wool hangs almost to their feet! The outside hair are called guard hairs. They are hallow and filled with air. This hair acts like a thick sleeping bag trapping their body heat to keep them warm. Their wool is soft and warm. People pay a lot of money to get yarn made form muskox wool. They have one calf every two years.  When a year is hard they do not have calves. 2.0



Sea Otter

Sea Otter Group
Otter eating
otter on back

Where they live

Sea Otters live in the Pacific Ocean close to the Arctic Circle. They range from Northern California to Russia. They stay in shallow water near the shore. sea otter range

They like to play with other otters and seals.  They spend all their time in the sea. They eat in the sea.  They sleep in the sea.  They have their babies in the sea. They are very smart!  They use tools.

What they eat

living abalone They love to eat Abalone.  Abalone is a sea snail.  To open Abalone shells they place a small rock on their chest. They hit the shell against it.  They float on their backs and enjoy dinner!  Abalone has a beautiful shell.  People make it into jewelry! 
Abalone Shell

What eats them

Great White Sharks and Killer Whales eat more sea otters than they used to. This is because there are fewer seals. Other animals also eat them sometimes. Sea lions, bears, and eagles will eat them, too.


Sea otters communicate in three ways. First they use sounds. They have sounds that tell others there is danger. There are sounds that tell another otter they really like them. Scientists know 9 different sounds and what they mean!

Sea otters also use scent to communicate. They mark their territory with it. It tells when they are ready to mate and start a family.

The third way they communicate is by creating a pile of rocks and twigs to show that they are living near.



Sea otters don’t have blubber to keep them warm.  Air trapped in their fur keeps them warm. Their fur works like a sleeping bag! It also helps them float.   One square inch of fur has 1 million hairs. That is 10 times as many hairs as on your head. To sleep in the sea the otter uses strands of kelp.  They tie themselves into the kelp beds. They can stay safe while they sleep at night.

Otters face real problems.  Oil spills are very bad for them.  Oil keeps their fur from trapping the air.  When that happens the otter gets cold and dies.

Sea otters were hunted.  People wanted their fur to make coats and hats. They were almost extinct.   Now the populations have come back.  Fishermen want them off the endangered species list.  Fisherman have to set their nets further from shore to keep them safe. They don't like that. If they set there nets where otters swim the otters get trapped in the nets and drown.




Polar Bears

bear baby

Polar Bear Mom and cubs meet the world

Polar Bear

See short videos of Polar Bears

Babies Communication Food Etiquette Hygiene Sleep

Polar Bear fur has two parts. The undercoat is very thick and warm and the upper coat is longer hair. It looks white but it is not. Each hair is transparent.  It scatters and reflects light.  This is what happens with ice and snow. Polar bears look whitest in sunlight when they are clean. Polar bears molt.  Before they get their new coat, oils from the seals they eat can make them look yellow.

What Polar Bears Eat

When hunting is good, polar bears eat only the seal's blubber and skin. They can eat 100 pounds of blubber in a single meal! Arctic foxes wait to get some of the leftover scraps

In summer, when ice melts polar bears follow the ice.  They my travel hundreds of miles.  They must have ice to find food. Polar bears stranded on land in summer may starve.    2.0


Polar Bear Etiquette

Polar bears share food if another bear has good manners! He must ask by walking low-to-the-ground. He must slowly circle the kill.  Then he must touch the nose of the host bear.  Then the bears will share.  One scientist said he saw 40 bears share a single whale once.  2.5


Polar Bear communication

Polar bears communicate two ways. They use heir body and make sounds.

Polar Bear Hygiene

Polar bears like to be clean and dry. Dirty or wet fur doesn’t keep them warm. In the summer bears wash in the ocean.  Polar bears dry by shaking. They also lick their paws and chests like cats do.
In the winter, polar bears use snow to clean themselves.  1.3

Polar Bears are a lot like people.

They like to sleep for 7-8 hours. After a big meal they like to nap. Day and night don’t mean much in the Arctic. In the summer the sun shines all the time.  In the winter it is dark all the time.  In winter polar bears sleep in pits. They dig in the snow in a ridge so their sides or backs are to the wind.
They sleep right through blizzards. The snow covers them like a blanket. They stay under the snow until the storm is over.  1.5


Baby Bears

Mother bear finds a hill near sea ice. She makes a den in the fall.  She has 1-3 cubs in November or December.  The mother bear nurses the cubs. They come out of her den for the first time in March or April.       2.3





colorful lemmings

Watch Lemmings on Britannica

snow lemming

Watch lemming dig

Where they live

They live on the tundra. They live in Russia (Siberia), Alaska and Canada. Lemmings look like fat furry hamsters.

What they eat

In the summer they eat sedge. Sedge is like grass. Instead of soft blades it has woody blades. They also eat berries, bark, and leaves.  Sometimes when food is hard to find lemmings migrate.  They do this in a big group. They all run in one direction through meadows, woods and towns.   In winter they eat bark and willow buds and any plant they can find under the snow. 2.3

What eats them

Many Arctic Animals eat lemmings. Fox, wolf, bear, owls and others eat small mammals.


Scientists do not know how they communicate.


They have strong legs and claws for digging. Their thick fur keeps them warm. They even have fur on the bottom of their paws. They are only 3-5 inches long. In summer they are brown. In winter they are white. They hide from the snowy owl and other predators in the snow.  They find food under the snow in the winter. They make nests under the snow in tunnels. They use muskox fur and grass to make nests. Thick fur helps to keep them warm. 2.5


Snowy Owl

owlFlight owl snowy owl

Where they Live

Snowy owls are in the Arctic in the summer. During winter they migrate south to Canada and the U.S. They are white with some dark spots. They usually mate for life. They may have as many as 14 eggs in a year. 2.8


What they eat

They fly close to the ground to hunt for food.  They like voles and lemmings and small mammals. They eat 1600 lemmings a year. They will also eat small rabbits and fish. 2.2

What eats them

When they are nesting wolves, and foxes sometimes kill and eat them. People also hunt these birds.


Snowy owls use sight, sound and touch to communicate. They often “hoot” to defend their territory. They also make many other calls. Snowy owls also use their feathers to communicate. We might think they are dancing.



Snowy Owls are very large owls with yellow eyes. They see much better than we do. This makes it easier for them to hunt.  Snowy Owls sit on or near the ground in open places. Prey does not see or hear the owl coming.  The owl has soft feathers which make no sound.  1.8

Watch the Snowy Owl

Hear the owl call



sealHarbor Seal

ringed seal

Ringed Seal


Bearded Seal

Where they live

There are many kinds of seals in the Arctic Circle. In winter they go as far south as California and Japan. The ringed seal is about 5 feet long. They weigh about 150 pounds. Bearded seals are 6 feet tall and can weigh up to 600 pounds. Harbor seals weigh about 350 pounds and can be six feet long. 3.0


What they eat

Seals eat krill, squid, octopus, cod, salmon, and mussels and any of the fish.
Ringed seals give birth and nurse their pups in snow caves built on ice floes. Warming temperatures bring less snow and more rain. Rain makes the snow caves collapse.  Once the cave collapses the pups freeze to death.   
The ringed seal and the bearded seal are both endangered.  As the climate warms they have less habitat.     3.1

Who eats them

Seals are food for polar bears, orcas, shark, wolves, and even the arctic fox. People also kill seals for their fur ad food. Seals also get trapped in fishing nets and drown. 3.7


Seals communicate by making sounds. These sounds can be heard more than 20 miles away underwater.


Seals keep warm with a thick layer of blubber and warm fur. They have two layers of fur. The one close to the body is very thick and warm. The layer further out is called guard hair. These hairs keep them dry. They are great swimmers. Their whiskers feel abound in the dark ocean to help them find fish. Seals have special claws to groom their coat. They can even sleep in the ocean. It is called "bottling" and they float upright in the water with only their heads above the waves. 2.2



Arctic Wolf


Where they live

Arctic wolves live in small packs in the arctic tundra. They roam Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Scandinavia.

What they eat

They hunt muskox and Arctic hare and caribou. Because there are not many animals in the Arctic the wolves must roam a big territory (1,000 square miles). They will also eat what is around, even lemmings.

Arctic Wolf Adaptations

  1. White fur, (camouflage) for snow and ice.
  2. To stay warm

Do you think you know how these things make it easier for the Arctic Wolf to survive? 4.2

What eats them

Bears may be the only preditors for Arctic Wolves.


Wolves use their body to tell other wolves how they feel about things. To show anger a wolf puts its ears straight up and bares its teeth. When a wolf suspects something it pulls its ears back. Then it squints. When a wolf is afraid, it will flatten its ears against its head. Wolves also communicate by howling. 3.0


Arctic wolves are like many arctic animals. They have many adaptations. These make them able to survive in the arctic. They have a thick coat to keep in warmth. A white coat helps them hide in the snow. Their paws are thickly padded. Like the fox it has shot ears and muzzle. This helps them stay warm.

Arctic wolves can't dig dens because of the permafrost. They make their dens in caves. The mother has 2-3 pups in May or June. To feed their pups wolves swallow food in chunks. They don't chew it. They eat all of their prey, even the bones. Wolves can eat 20 pounds at one meal. When they get home, wolves throw up some of the food for the hungry pups. 1.8




Arctic FOX

arctic fox
Arctic FoxSummer

Where they live

Arctic Fox live in the Arctic. This includes Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and Geenland.

What they eat

Arctic fox eat lemmings and waterfowl. They also eat berries.

What eats them

Wolves and sometimes polar bears eat the Arctic Fox.


Arctic fox use barking to communicate. They don't communicate much except when they find a mate.


Fox has furry soles, short ears, and a short muzzle. These adaptations help it live in cold and snow. Arctic foxes live in burrows, and in a blizzard they may tunnel (burrow) into the snow to make a shelter.
Arctic foxes have beautiful thick white coats. This adaptation makes them hard to see in the snow. When the seasons change and the snow melts, the fox puts on a coat of brown or gray. Can you guess why?
Artic Foxes eat small mammals, birds, and even fish. In winter when it is hard to find food the fox follows polar bears. They eat scraps left from the polar bear's meal. Foxes also eat vegetables.
The fox has a thick tail. It helps him balance. He also covers up with it like a blanket.
Arctic foxes give birth each spring. They can have 14 pups in a litter.  They live 3 - 6 years.    2.3

Watch the Arctic Fox






Where they live

Voles are small. They look like mice. They are mammals.  They are members of the same family as gerbils, hamsters, lemmings, rats, and mice. They live in the arctic tundra.
Voles are 3-5 in long.  They are brown or gray. 2.0

What they eat

They eat plants.  They eat roots, moss, and lichens.  Voles live in tunnels with dens. These tunnels help them run from predators. 1.0

Who eats them
One single vole can have more than 100 young.   That they do so is a good thing for many small predators, like wolves, owls, and bears rely on them for food.   Watch an owl catch a vole.                     2.2


Moles live alone and do not communicate unless they want to find a mate.


They are 4-8 inches in length. They have short, strong front feet for digging. They have thick fur to stay warm. Their body is round to keep the heat in. They change color in summer. They are brown like the tundra. Brown fur absorbs heat in summer. They are white in winter to make them hard to see. 1.2





Ptarmigan ptarmigan PtarmiganSummer Summer PtarmiganwinterWinter

Where he lives

Ptarmigan are small birds.  They are a like chickens.  They live in Arctic tundra and hide in rocks and bushes. They live in Flocks. Sometimes there may be more than 100 birds in a flock. 

What they eat

They eat berries and leaves from the tundra plants.  Ptarmigan can fly, but they like to walk slowly as they eat.

What eats them

Many animals want to eat them.  Owls, Eagles and other birds, Wolves, Arctic Fox all hav them for dinner.


They cackle, groan, growl, snore and scream. But usually they do this when they want to mate.


They have two different colors. They have one for summer and one for winter. In summer they are brownish with dark stripes. They are all white in winter.  The color helps them hide when they eat.  In summer they are the same color as tundra plants. They look like shadows sometimes. In winter they match the snow. Since Snowy Owls also use this trick Ptarmigan have to watch out for them.   Their feet have stiff feathers on thir feet. These feathers help them walk on snow.






flyig puffin 3 Puffins
puffin with fish

Puffins look like little penguins.  They are much smaller.  They are the same size as a pigeon. But they are much heavier.  They have a colorful beak. The beak is gray in the winter.  In spring the beak becomes colorful again.
Puffins live most of their lives at sea.  When they are tired they rest on the waves. They are good swimmers.  They use their wings under water like they are flying. They can dive 200 feet deep. They only stay under water for only 20 or 30 seconds. Puffins hunt small fish like herring.
Puffins are also good at flying in the air.  They flap their wings 400 times per minute. They can fly 55 miles an hour.
Puffins nest on the tops of rocky cliffs. They line the nest with feathers or grass. They lay a single egg, and both parents take turns sitting on it. When a chick hatches, the mother and father take turns feeding the baby.  They bring small fish back to the nest in their big bills. 2.4





Walrus herd of walrus ice walus

The Walrus lives in the Arctic.  He lies on the ice with many of his friends.  They are loud and bellow and snort at each other.  He has thick wrinkled brown and pink skin. Under his skin is 4 inches of blubber. These are adaptations which help him live in the Arctic.   He also has long white tusks, grizzly whiskers, and a flat flipper.
He uses his tusks to pull himself onto the ice, and to break holes in the ice from below. These tusks can be three to four feet.  He also uses his tusks to fight. 2.9

Walruses like to eat shellfish that live on the dark ocean floor.  Walruses use their whiskers to find the shellfish. Walrus can live 40 years.  They are 7-12 feet long and weigh 1 ½ tons.           2.9

Watch a virtual Polar Bear attack a virtual Walrus







Watch Narwhals

How do Whales Sleep

Read About them


Watch Belugas

Read about them


bowheadWatch Bowhead Whales

Read about them

There are 17 different whale species  in the Arctic. Since there are so many we will focus on only three; the Beluga Whale, the Bowhead and Narwhal.  All whales use sonar to navigate.

Belugas are white whales. Calves are born gray or brown. Mothers give birth once a year to one calf.   The baby Beluga nurses for two years.  They turn white as they grow up.  Belugas grow up in five years.
White whales are small whales. They grow to be 13 - 20 feet long.  Belugas live up to 50 years! 

Belugas live in small groups called pods. They talk to each other by making clicks, whistles, and clanging sounds.  They have been called the canary of the sea.  This is because they seem to sing.  They like to be together.  In summer Belugas gather at the mouths of rivers (estuaries)to molt. They rub themselves on the gravel bed and shed their yellow, withered skin.  They are then again  white.  

They live in the Arctic Ocean along the coast.  Beluga eat fish, crustaceans, and worms. They are related to the whale known as the narwhal. Belugas are very intelligent.  People can teach them to do things like blowing bubbles for fun!  2.7


Bowhead whales were hunted until they were almost extinct 100 years ago.  Some of these whales that were caught at the end of the last century had old harpoon tips in their bodies.  Some even had stone spearheads in their blubber.  This is evidence that bowheads can live for well over a hundred years.  This makes them the longest-lived mammal. 5.2


They grow to 50 to 60 feet long.  Bowheads live near the edge of the sea ice.  The thick layer of blubber helps them stay warm enough to survive.  Its strong skull lets it break through a foot or more of ice to breathe.  Scientists do not know how the whales find places to surface under the ice.  Bowhead whales are difficult to study because they are always under the ice or near the edge of the ice. 

The bowhead is a baleen whale. Instead of teeth, they have baleen.  This is a filter that hangs down from its upper jaw and removes plankton from the water. When feeding, the bowhead swims with its huge mouth open trapping plankton.  One whale eats more than 100 tons each year. 3.7    

The Narwhal

The narwhal is called the unicorn of the sea. People have sold their tusks for a lot of money.  They tell people the tusk belonged to a unicorn!

The narwhal is a porpoise that lives in the Arctic. They have no teeth in their mouths. In males, the males have one tooth.  It is a spiral tusk that grows right through its upper lip.  It grows up to 8-9 feet long. Females sometimes grow a small tusk, too. The narwhal grows to be 13-20 feet long and weighs over 3,000 pounds.
They travel in pods of 15 – 20.  They have even been seen in groups of hundreds. These groups can get trapped by ice.  When that happens they are easy prey for hunters, polar bears, or walruses.  3.5

Narwhal’s were a mystery.  When scientists started tracking them chips that send out radio signals they began learning a lot. We now know that Narwhals spend a lot of their time on the ocean floor where they eat Greenland Halibut.  The halibut lie flat on the bottom of the seabed in deep water. Because it is completely dark at this depth, no one has ever seen a narwhal feed.  Inuit hunters kill these animals and give scientists their stomachs. They send the stomachs to labs to see what they have been eating. 5.6

We now know dives last around 25 minutes, including the time spent at the bottom and the trip down and back from the surface. Narwhals spend about three hours a day in the deep ocean!  This is an incredible amount of time at a depth where the pressure is as much as 150 that of the surface and life exists in complete darkness. 
There are adaptations that let the Narwhal live in the arctic, but also at these depths!  Scientists are just beginning to understand how the Narwhal does these amazing things!   6.5





Adaptations Changing (adapting) to the environment to make it possible to survive. When it is cold outside we heat our homes and wear coats. That is an adaptation. These seals have lots of blubber to keep them warm. seals



blizzard A really bad snowstorm. A blizzard has strong cold winds and blowing snow. Sometimes you cannot see at all. This is called a whiteout.


a hole in the ground made by an animal for shelter.

Camouflage behavior or appearance that makes you hard to see in nature. In winter the arctic fox is white because it disappears when you look from a distance. A fawn has spots on its back that make it look like the ground with leaves or dappled light.
Clutch a nest or batch of eggs or a brood of chicks

To pass the winter in a state of sleep. This saves (conserves) energy when food is not available.

lee the side that is sheltered from the wind


are two things together. Tehy cannot live alone. One is a fungus the other is algae, but they look like one thing! Lichens live in the most extreme environments on Earth. They are also in our school yard. Can you find them? Scientists use them to learn about pollution. They are used to make dyes and perfues and to make medicene.


When animals have many babies at one birth it is called a litter. Cats and dogs have several babies with each birth so their offspring is called a litter. Example: there were six puppies in the litter.


To move periodically from one region or climate to another for feeding or breeding.


The jaws and nose of an animal that stick out. A dog has a muzzle. So do wolves, foxes, and many other animals. Sometimes you "muzzle" an animal to keep it from biting. That means you put a sleeve around the muzzle of the animal that keeps it from opening its mouth.


a group of animals of the same kind who are like a community. They work together to kill prey. They take care of their own. They have a leader.


A layer of earth that is always frozen.



Often called the grass of the oceans. the lungs of the earth, and the b ase of the foodchain. Phytoplankton. They convert light and carbon dioxie into food and oxygen just like trees do. They produce 1/2 our oxegen.
Plankton is a combination of phytoplankton and zooplankton. It is many very small plants, fungi and organisims like krill. It includes phytoplankton

one that preys, destroys, or devours other animals


An animal taken by a predator as food



Small mammals (as a mouse, squirrel, or beaver) that have in both jaws a single pair of teeth shaped like a chisel (sharp) edge. These animal must gnaw on things or their teeth keep growing!
Scandinavia Countries on the Scandiavian peninsula including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland.


Sea Ice

The ice the forms on the sea in the arctic and Antarctic

A geographic area belonging to a group. Wolves stake out territory just as we have states in our country.


Tundra is the coldest of all the biomes. Tundra comes from the Finnish word tunturi, meaning treeless plain. It is noted for its frost-molded landscapes, extremely low temperatures, little precipitation, poor nutrients, and short growing seasons. Dead organic material functions as a nutrient pool. The two major nutrients are nitrogen and phosphorus. Nitrogen is created by biological fixation, and phosphorus is created by precipitation.

Transparent See-through like clear glass.
Molt To shed skin, feathers, horns,or fur in animals.