An Invitation to Meet the Arctic’s Wildlife Denizens

 

Feature image by Nansen Weber Photography 

Landing ashore Somerset Island, Nunavut, some 500 miles above the Arctic Circle, is in itself a rare event only a handful of Arctic wilderness adventurists, photographers and researchers have had the privilege of experiencing firsthand.  Already known as the premier site for observing beluga whales, Somerset Island is also home to the most beautiful and exotic land-based occupants of the extreme north, from Arctic foxes and hares to muskox and polar bears.  Imagine having the opportunity to see these amazing animals in their natural habitat…all within a short distance from the comforts of an intimate 5-star lodge situated in the center of the Arctic’s wildlife habitat! As of summer 2015, you can: Quark Expeditions has partnered with Arctic Watch to offer Arctic wildlife lovers a 10-day Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge expedition, kicking off in 2015 for six weeks in July and August.

By Land or By Sea

By kayak, raft, ATV or foot, you may encounter any (or perhaps even many) of the Arctic’s wild inhabitants. An Arctic wildlife outing may bring you up close and personal with…

Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox

Photo courtesy of Nansen Weber Photography

White or blue-gray by winter, during the summer months you’ll find the Arctic fox sporting its alternative camouflage coat of brown and gray to blend in with the tundra’s seasonal landscape of rocks and ground-hugging vegetation.  Spring brings a typically large litter of Arctic fox pups, up to 14! So it may be a hiker’s (or ATV rider’s) delight to see these inquisitive, playful youngsters frolicking about the tundra – and mom at her wit’s end trying to rein them in.

Arctic Hare

Arctic Hare

Photo courtesy of Nansen Weber Photography

Like the Arctic fox, the Arctic hare changes out its snowy-white winter wardrobe for a blue-gray hue to conceal it from the sharp eyes of its predators.  And like the Arctic fox, these extreme northern hares give birth in the spring and early summer, though not as prolifically – averaging anywhere from two to eight offspring per season.  Somewhat larger than rabbits found in more temperate climes, the Arctic hare uses its elongated hind legs to sprint up to speeds of 60 kilometers per hour – another adaptation to help it elude predators… like the Arctic Fox!

Arctic Muskox

Muskox

Photo courtesy of Nansen Weber Photography

A behemoth with a strictly vegetarian diet, the Arctic muskox sustains itself with the tundra’s bountiful salad of mosses, lichens, roots, flowers and grasses (the latter in the summer).  If you do run across muskoxen, chances are it’ll coincide with their dramatic summer rutting (mating) season. Bulls will bellow, lower their heads and charge their rivals in their efforts to establish dominance and thereby claim their own “harem” of females.

The rutting season is timed to occur just after the female muskox has given birth to a single calf, between April and June. The young are up on their feet within hours of birth, so should you happen upon a herd, sometimes numbering from 24 to 36 animals, don’t be surprised if they snort, stomp, and form a protective circle around their young!

Ringed Seal 

Ringed Seal

Photo courtesy of Nansen Weber Photography

Named for its gray-white rings stylishly adorning its gray coat, the Arctic ringed seal is by far the most widespread Arctic marine mammal.  Once the sea-ice has yielded in late spring and early summer, ringed seals – including their individual broods of a single spring-born pup – may be seen along the edges of the shore ice or in open water.  Ringed seals favor Arctic cod, but are also fond of krill and shrimp. They are known to dive to depths of up to 90 meters in search of their favorite food, and can stay submerged for up to 45 minutes.

Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Photo taken by a Quark passenger

Where there are seals, there are likely to be polar bears. Polar bears relish the seals’ fat, a ready source of high-calorie food. You may spy a polar bear stalking the edges of an ice floe or breathing holes frequented by the seals.  The undisputed sovereign of the Arctic and the largest species of the world’s bears, a mature male polar bear can weigh in at 351 to 544 kilograms (775 to 1,200 pounds). Mature females, generally half that size, are still formidable, especially so when protecting their young.  A female polar bear, with anywhere from one to three cubs tagging along, will emerge from her winter’s den in early spring (late March to early April). So come summer, and come some good fortune, you may realize the Arctic wildlife lover’s dream of watching this magnificent animal teaching her young how to hunt. They’re already skilled at play!

Other Arctic wildlife you may spy include caribou, snowy owls, majestic peregrine falcons, and of course, beluga whales!

Learn more about Quark’s new land-based Arctic adventure and the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge and give us a call with any questions.

We hope to see you next summer!

Arctic Tern, reflected

An Arctic Tern is photographed reflected here, as it skims the water. Photo taken by passengers M.Boswell on one of Quark Expeditions Three Arctic Islands voyages.

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