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10 fun facts about walrus

April 4th, 2017 | By | Filed in Wildlife

arctic kingdom walrus pod on ice wildlife photography

By: Liz Carino

Thanks to their whiskers, long tusks and massive size, walrus – Odobenus rosmarus – are unmistakably one of the most majestic and recognizable animals in the Arctic. With their numerous cameos in pop culture (including The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”), it’s safe to say they are cherished among wildlife enthusiasts around the world.

This circumpolar marine mammal is a popular choice for travellers to the Arctic. Here are 10 fun facts about walrus:

1. Walrus are huge

Walrus aren’t called the Giants or Kings of the Arctic for no reason! Adult walrus are typically about 7.25 to 11.5 feet in size and can weigh up to 1.5 tons (3,000 lbs or 1,360 kg). The weight of a small car!


2. They live up to 40 years in the wild

Arctic Kingdom sunset walrus on ice wildlife photography

3. Both male and female walrus have large tusks

They use their tusks for cutting through ice and getting out of the water, as well as defense and for males, to demonstrate dominance. The larger the tusks, the more dominant the male. Tuskscan be as long as 3 feet (0.9 m) for males!

4. Walrus are social animals

They congregate in large numbers, with groups of walrus called “herds”. Herds are usually segregated by gender, with females and males, each having their own herd.

5. Scientists recognize two subspecies of walrus.

The Atlantic walrus and the Pacific walrus are divided geographically. Atlantic walrus inhabit coastal areas of Canada and Greenland, and Pacific walrus are found in the northern seas off Alaska and Russia.

6. The worldwide population of walrus is estimated at 250,000.

Atlantic walrus only make up about 20,000 of the total walrus population.

arctic kingdom 3 walrus on ice

7. The largest walrus herd in Canada occurs in Foxe Basin.

The Foxe Basin herd is approximately 5,000 walrus strong and they can often be seen here lounging in groups on the pack ice. With numerous polynyas (areas of open water surrounded by pack ice), Foxe Basin is a great habitat for walrus. With easy access to Foxe Basin from the historic community of Igloolik, Arctic Kingdom travellers can witness the majesty of the mighty walrus on our Kings of the Arctic safari.

8. Orcas and polar bears are their only natural predators.

walrus arctic kingdom water shot

9. Walrus can withstand freezing temperatures as low as -35°C (-31°F)

Layers of blubber stored beneath their skin helps insulate them from the cold. They are also capable of slowing their heartbeat to endure the temperature, allowing them to live comfortably in the Arctic.

10. They live in shallow water but dive deeper in search of food

Walrus can dive up to 90 m and stay under water for long periods of time – up to 30 minutes! They are also quite graceful in the water and swim at an average speed of 7 km/h (4.35 mph) and up to 35 km/h (21.74 mph).While their vision isn’t great in murky waters, they rely on vibrissae (whiskers) to help them find foods including clams, mollusks, sea cucumbers and more.

walrus in water arctic kingdom

Want to see walrus this year?

Explore the incredible environment of Foxe Basin by boat in search of walrus in July on Kings of the Arctic.

Want to create a custom adventure to view walrus?

Contact one of our Arctic Travel Advisors. We can build a fully-customized itinerary to bring your Arctic dreams to life.  

How to choose a polar bear adventure

February 21st, 2017 | By | Filed in Polar Bear, Wildlife

polar bear migration fly-in photo safari_arctic kingdom_mother and cub

By: Liz Carino

The Canadian Arctic is home to approximately 60 per cent of the world’s polar bear population. And while Churchill, Manitoba is popular viewing location, some of the best places to see this Arctic icon are away from crowds, on land and on ice – throughout the spectacular territory of Nunavut!

A polar bear for every season

You don’t have to wait until October and November for sightings – you can get the chance to see polar bears in the Canadian Arctic from March to November.

There are many options for polar bear tours in the Canadian Arctic. Here are some things to consider when planning your adventure:

What time of year do you want to travel?

The Arctic is always evolving. Depending on the time of year you visit, the Arctic offers a variety of experiences and weather:

More adventurous travellers may enjoy the unique polar bear and Northern Lights viewing opportunities in March and April, despite the extreme cold.

Other travellers may prefer the more mild weather during the Arctic spring, in May and June. At this time of year, temperatures range between -3 and 10°C (26 - 50°F) but can feel much warmer because of the 24-hour sun. This time of year is also great for those that want to experience the classic spring floe edge, where Arctic marine mammals (including polar bears and narwhal) tend to congregate.

Those that prefer even warmer weather may want to visit during July and August when temperatures can reach as high as 20°C (70°F)! You’ll get the chance to experience the midnight sun at this time of year as well.

While temperatures get colder and days start to get shorter in October and November, you can get the chance to see the Northern Lights if conditions are right.

Learn more about how to choose the right season for you to travel to the Arctic here.

arctic photography polar bear mother cub on iceberg

How long do you have to travel?

Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit, is just a 3-hour flight from Ottawa – making Arctic travel more accessible than ever before. For many people, this means less time travelling to the destination and more time enjoying the North. Still, the Arctic experiences unpredictable weather conditions. When planning your trip it’s a good idea to consider how many days you have available for adventure, and adding “buffer” time at the end of your trip to account for unplanned delays.

For those that have only about a week to travel, consider one of our 7-day trips, including Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Photo Safari or Kings of the Arctic.

Have a few extra days for viewing polar bears? Check out some of our 8 or 9-day trips like Spring Polar Bears and Icebergs of Baffin Photo Safari or Great Migrations of the Northwest Passage.

Want an even longer stay and explore further in the far North? You can always build your own custom itinerary by contacting us.

polar bears glaciers of baffin island-arctic kingdom - polar bear swimming

How do you want to explore?

The right adventure for you will also depend on how you want to experience polar bears.

Are you a photographer looking for unique photography of polar bears (and possibly cubs) on icebergs?

You may want to head to a rarely-explored region of the High Arctic in early spring. Travel across the sea ice by snowmobile and qamutik (traditional Inuit sled) in search of award-winning photography opportunities on Spring Polar Bears and Icebergs of Baffin Photo Safari.

Looking for rare footage of newborn polar bear cubs and their mothers?

To get the chance to see them emerging for their dens for the first time, check out Polar Bear Mother and Newborn Cubs Safari.

Do you want to view and photograph polar bears up-close from ground-level while safely behind an unobtrusive electric fence?

Perhaps you also prefer to stay in a simple, but comfortable, cabin instead of a mobile safari camp? Then Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Photo Safari is the trip for you!

Are you also interested in the chance to see Arctic whales?

If you’re looking for not just polar bears, but wildlife encounters including narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales, Great Migrations of the Northwest Passage or Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari are great options.

Want to discover the Arctic by boat?

You can get the chance to see polar bears and other Arctic wildlife on the shores and ice, and swimming amongst icebergs, in the summer months on Kings of the Arctic and Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island.

arctic kingdom photography polar bears on iceberg

What activity level are you looking for?

On many of our polar bear tours you can choose to make your experience as active or relaxing as you want. That said, some of our trips may be a better fit for you depending on the activity level you prefer.

Some travellers embark on our trips looking for a more passive, relaxing experience with incredible landscapes and wildlife sightings. If that’s what you’re interested in, you may enjoy relaxing at the floe edge on Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari or taking in the peace of the Arctic tundra on Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Photo Safari.

Others travel to the far North looking for a more action-packed adventure. If this sounds more your speed, you may enjoy the thrill of soaring across the sea ice by snowmobile and qamutik on Spring Polar Bears and Icebergs Photo Safari, exploring the Arctic waters by boat on Kings of the Arctic or hiking mountains on Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin.

Are you travelling with family?

Whether you’re a solo adventurer, photographer or family, there’s a polar bear trip for you! All of our Arctic experiences are great for individuals or groups. For families with children, we suggest picking a summer adventure. During July and August, temperatures are more comfortable and activities including hiking, boating, fishing and picking fresh summer berries, tend to be a hit with kids. Plus, the days are longer which means more time for fun and polar bear sightings!

polar bears glaciers baffin island 2016 arctic kingdom

Need help planning your polar bear adventure?

Contact us to speak with an Arctic Travel Advisor – they are always happy to help!

Want to build your own adventure?

We can bring your Arctic dreams to life with a private journey. Contact us to start planning your custom itinerary.

10 fun facts about Arctic fox

October 6th, 2016 | By | Filed in arctic fox

Arctic Kingdom Arctic Fox
While polar bears are the most popular animals that travellers want to see and photograph when visiting the Arctic, the Arctic fox is another favourite among guests!

With their playful nature, once encountered, the Arctic fox instantly gains popularity with guests. Arctic fox have such a cheeky personalities that they are also known as the “clowns of the tundra” – as our past guests and Expedition Leaders on Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Photo Safari can attest!
What makes this small, Northern animal so remarkable? Here are 10 fun facts about Arctic fox:

1. Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) are extremely well-adapted to the harsh, frigid temperatures of the Arctic.

Their thick fur enables them to maintain a consistent body temperature and provides insulation. Plus, their short legs, short muzzle and rounded ears all reduce the amount of surface area for heat loss, and their feet are covered in fur.

2. The Arctic fox has the warmest pelt of any animal found in the Arctic, enduring temperatures as low as -70 °C.

Once conditions get too cold, its metabolism increases to provide warmth.

3. The Arctic fox is a member of the canid family of animals.

They are related to other foxes, wolves and dogs.

4. They are primarily solitary animals living on the Arctic tundra and pack ice.

5. Arctic Fox do not hibernate and their fur changes colours with the seasons.

In the summer the Arctic fox has a brown or great coat with a lighter belly. It then turns into a thick white one in the winter. It is the only canid that changes the colour of its coat, allowing it to camouflage with the snow and ice in the winter and rocks and plants in the summer.

6. About the size of a large domestic cat, the Arctic fox is the smallest wild canid found in Canada.

Females tend to be smaller than males, and their bushy tails make up 30-35% of their total length.

7. Arctic fox are well-known for their hunting style.

They are carnivores and scavengers, and they hunt rodents, birds and even first. In winter, prey can be scarce, prompting Arctic foxes to bring out their cheeky sides. They are known to follow in the footsteps of the Arctic’s premier predator, the polar bear, and feed on leftover scraps.

8. Arctic foxes are monogamous animals.

They mate for life!

9. Females give birth in the spring.

They have large litters of 5-8 pups! Parents raise the pups together during the summer.

10. They live in burrows, with extensive tunnel systems.

But in a blizzard they are known to tunnel into the snow to create shelter.

arctic fox arctic kingdom

Want to see them this year?

View them in October and November on Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Photo Safari.
You can also see them in March on Polar Bear Mother and Newborn Cubs Photo Safari.

Want to see Arctic fox but not sure which trip is for you?

Click here to get in touch with one of our Travel Advisors – they are happy to help!

10 Fast facts about polar bears

September 20th, 2016 | By | Filed in Polar Bear

Arctic Kingdom Polar Bear mother and newborn cubs
Polar bears have always been icons of the Arctic, and one of the most popular animals that guests want to see on our trips – they’re one of our favourites too. We love all things polar – and bears are no exception!

Canada is home to approximately 60% of the world’s polar bear population. Their habitat in Canada ranges from James Bay in the south to Ellesmere Island in the north, and east to west from Labrador to the Alaskan border. We are thrilled to be able to provide opportunities to see these majestic animals for guests from around the world.

Whether you are gearing up for a trip to the north, or just want to learn more about them, here are 10 facts about polar bears:

1. The classic white bears are not really white.

Polar bears actually have black skin and hollow, colourless hair. Their hollow fur reflects light and traps the sun’s heat to help keep them warm.

2. Polar bears can overheat.

Though they are adapt to survive Arctic temperatures, which can dip below -50°C, they can also overheat. This becomes more of a risk when running and in the summer – when temperatures rise above freezing and up to 20°C.

3. Polar bears clean themselves by rolling in the snow.

Can you blame them for wanting to keep themselves clean? Staying clean also helps the insulating properties of their fur, so after feeding they will often freshen up by taking a swim or roll in snow. Rolling in the snow also helps cool them off when they get too hot.

4. They’re quick on their feet.

Polar bears can reach speeds of up to 40km per hour (25 mph) on land.

5. …and in the water.

Polar bears are also excellent swimmers and can comfortably swim around 10 km per hour (6mph). They use their large front paws to propel themselves through the water and their back legs to steer. Their latin name actually means “sea bear”.

(FYI: You can see them swimming on Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island)

6. Giants of the Arctic: Polar bears are one of the largest carnivores that live on land.

Males can weigh more than 770kg (1700lbs).

7. They have a good sense of smell.

Polar bears can sniff out seals – their main food – from up to 1 km (0.6 miles) away and even under 1m (3 ft) of snow.

8. A female polar bear will have an average of five litters of cubs in her life time.

Two-thirds of polar bear litters are twins!

9. Polar bears in the wild can live up to 30 years.

Most live 15 to 18 years.

10. The biggest threat to polar bears is climate change.

Global warming causes sea ice to melt earlier, and form later each year. This give polar bears less time to hunt, and studies have shown that polar bear litters are also declining in size. There are more than 22,000 polar bears across the Arctic, but many scientists believe they could be gone within 100 years. Steven Amstrup of Polar Bears International deems polar bears “the most vulnerable of any species to a warming world” and says two-thirds of all polar bears will be gone by 2050 if nothing changes.

Want to see them this year?

Arctic Kingdom Polar bear mother and cubs wildlife photography
We provide opportunities to view and photograph polar bears in the Canadian Arctic from March to November.

Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Photo Safari – October & November
Spring Polar Bears of Baffin – March & April
Polar Bear Mother and Newborn Cubs – March
Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari – May & June
Great Migrations of the Northwest Passage – May & June
Kings of the Arctic: Polar bears, Whales, Walrus – June & July
Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island – August

Spring Polar Bears and Icebergs of Baffin Photo Safari Arctic Kingdom

Want to see polar bears but not sure which trip is for you?

Click here to get in touch with one of our Travel Advisors – they are happy to help!

Want to create your own polar bear adventure?

Contact us to ask about custom trips.
Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Photo Safari Arctic Kingdom

8 tips for Arctic wildlife photography

August 3rd, 2016 | By | Filed in Wildlife

Arctic Fox Arctic Kingdom wildlife The Arctic is home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife, including polar bears and narwhal. This destination offers ample opportunities for amazing wildlife photography. For many, a trip to the Arctic is a once in a lifetime experience. To help ensure you capture every moment during your visit, here are 8 tips for wildlife photography in the Arctic:

Gear up…

The gear you bring on an Arctic Safari depends on you! For serious photographers, with the variety of wildlife and scenery available to shoot, it’s a good idea to bring a telephoto lens (minimum of 300mm), a mid-range zoom (70-200mm), a tele-converter (1.4x or 2x), and a wide angle lens (24mm or less). Other guests have success with point-and-shoot cameras. Many photographers also find bringing a full-sized tripod or monopod beneficial. The weather in the Arctic can be unpredictable. Depending on the season, we recommend bringing snow or rain covers, and heavy duty plastic bags to wrap your gear in the case of extreme weather. With spectacular sights at every turn, you will find yourself snapping more shots than usual. We’d hate for you to miss out on a great shot because your battery ran out! Don’t forget to pack extra memory cards, batteries and chargers.

Arctic Kingdom Qik Polar bear iceberg wildlife photography

…and know it well

No matter the type of gear you bring, it’s important to know it well. Get familiar with the settings and features of your camera and abilities of your lenses. Wildlife won’t pose for your photos – you might have a maximum of five seconds to capture action. Know the appropriate shutter speed for your gear: it varies depending on the camera and lens, but should be fast enough to stop movement and still capture sharp images. It’s also a good idea to practice quickly toggling between settings and modes to ensure you don’t miss that perfect breaching whale or close-up walrus shot! Narwhal Arctic Kingdom Wildlife

Anticipate their next move

Consider where the animal is going, not where it is. Anticipating its movement is key so you can set up your shot. For those with goals of capturing shots of specific wildlife, it pays to know their behaviour patterns. Each animal is different: The best way to predict their movement is to take time watching them. Your Expedition Leaders and Inuit guides have been spending time with Arctic wildlife for years, and know them well. Feel free to ask them for animal, weather and location-specific tips and tricks before you head out on the tundra or to the floe edge.

Arctic Kingdom Birds wildlife photography

Patience is key

Our experienced Inuit guides and Expedition Leaders aim to get you to the best spot at the right time for optimal wildlife viewing. That said, wildlife are unpredictable. Patience is not only a virtue, but imperative to your success when photographing wildlife. You never know when a narwhal will surface, or a polar bear will climb up on a floating piece of ice, so you can get that epic shot of the day. Arctic Kingdom Polar Bear Mother Cubs wildlife photography

Keep it interesting

Unusual conditions or vantage points can produce amazing results. While photographers often look for sunny days, you don’t have to wait for perfect conditions to capture beautiful photography. Overcast and less-than-ideal weather including snow and wind can make for dramatic and interesting shots. You’ll find the long sunsets of Arctic summers can also provide opportunities for spectacular shots you won’t get anywhere else – worth waiting up for!

Arctic Kingdom sunset walrus on ice wildlife photography

Work your angles…

The angle of your shot is another thing to consider. While many people like to shoot at eye-level, it’s a great idea to go a bit lower. You don’t always need to get all the way down on the ground, but what better excuse to get a bit dirty than an incredible photograph? Angling the camera slightly up at subject can produce some of the best, and most interesting, wildlife captures. Arctic Kingdom Walrus on ice wildlife photography

…and framing

While close-up shots tend to make an impact, Arctic Kingdom Expedition Leader David Briggs likes to remind guests to get shots of wildlife in their environment. The Arctic is home to unique wildlife, but its incredible and vast landscapes are equally notable. Make sure to take a mixture of close-up and wide shots to capture all the beauty and wonder of the Arctic. Arctic Kingdom Polar bear mother and cub on iceberg wildlife photography

Practice makes perfect

The more you shoot, the more you increase your chances of getting the perfect shot. The best professional wildlife photographers don’t become experts overnight. They practice taking photos, with a variety of angles, focuses and subjects. The good news is, our Arctic Safaris allow for plenty of time to work on your craft. Following these tips and the guidance of your Expedition Leaders, we are confident you’ll leave with not only a smile and lasting memories, but great photographs to show off for years to come. Here are some of the animals you can have the chance to see and photograph on our Arctic Safaris: Arctic Kingdom Polar bear mother and cubs wildlife photography Polar Bears Opportunities to see them on these trips: -          Polar Bear Mother and Newborn Cubs Photo Safari -          Spring Polar Bears and Icebergs of Baffin Photo Safari -          Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari -          Kings of the Arctic -          Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island -          Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Safari Arctic Kingdom Narwhal wildlife photography Narwhal Opportunities to see them on these trips: -          Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari -          Great Migrations of the Northwest Passage Arctic Kingdom bowhead whale tail wildlife photography Bowhead Whale Opportunities to see them on these trips: -          Great Migrations of the Northwest Passage -          Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari -          Kings of the Arctic -          Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island Arctic Kingdom beluga underwater wildlife photography Beluga Opportunities to see them on these trips: -          Great Migrations of the Northwest Passage -          Baffin Island Dive Safari  Arctic Kingdom walrus pod wildlife photography Walrus Opportunities to see them on these trips: -          Kings of the Arctic -          Great Migrations of the Northwest Passage   Get Arctic wildlife photography inspiration on our Instagram! Follow us @ArcticKingdomExpeditions to see photos from our trips, including those captured by our guides and guests.

Snowy Owls: Harry Potter’s Owl

August 15th, 2015 | By | Filed in Uncategorized, Wildlife

snowy owl and Arctic fox
Native to the Arctic region in North America and Eurasia, Snowy Owls have thick plumage, heavily-feathered, taloned feet and light colouration making them well-adapted for life in the chilly Arctic. Although Snowy Owls are thought to be completely white to blend into their surroundings, it is actually the males that are white while females and young owls have more flecks of grey.

Snowy Owls are opportunistic hunters

Snowy owls are classified as opportunistic hunters. Based on the climate, their prey may vary considerably, feeding on just about anything they can get their talons from deer mice to muskrats. Unlike most owls, Harry Potter's owl is diurnal, using daylight and dark nights to search for prey. Their keen eyesight and excellent hearing serves as an asset since they are able to identify their kill beneath the snow and vegetation. The Snowy Owls’ tactic is a patient ‘sit and wait’ approach in contrast to predators that seek and follow their prey until the ideal time to attack. Once their efforts have paid off, like many other birds, these owls will swallow their small prey whole.

Parenting style

Both males and females are very protective of their nests during nesting season. Although Snowy Owls have few predators, the males are constantly on guard while the female incubates the eggs. Approaching predators can expect to be attacked by both sexes. Snowy Owls will dive-bomb in an attempt to distract the unwelcome predator away from their offspring. It is in part because of the Snowy Owls’ protective instincts that they are considered in least concern of becoming an endangered species.

Quick Stats:

  • Snowy owls are one of the largest species of owl and the heaviest in North America
  • Their wingspan is 1.4 to 1.7 meters (4.5 to 5.5 feet)
  • Female snowy owls can lay a clutch of anywhere from 3 to 11 eggs
  • Lifespan in the wild is just over nine years
  • Longest lifespan in captivity is 28 years
  • Check Them Out!

    Interested in checking out Snowy Owls? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Hiking in the Auyuittuq National Park where you can get a firsthand view of Snowy Owls and their nests during the summer months! [There is no chance of seeing Harry Potter, however.] Author: Mandy Ams

Arctic Foxes: The Clowns of the Tundra

July 31st, 2015 | By | Filed in Uncategorized, Wildlife

Arctic Fox

Photo: R J Sauer

Undoubtedly, the Arctic is not an easy place to survive with its deep-winter frigid temperatures and seemingly barren landscape. Arctic foxes are extremely well-adapted to the harsh environment. They have thick fur which enables them to maintain a consistent body temperature and provides excellent insulation. Their paws have fur on the soles, adding extra protection against the frozen ground and helping them walk on ice. Their noticeably bushy tail is useful as a warm cover. Arctic foxes also have a very compact body shape, with small ears and a short muzzle and legs which minimizes the surface area exposed to winter air.

Arctic Foxes: Excellent Hunters

Arctic foxes are extremely well- known for their hunting style. They use their outstanding hearing to pinpoint small animals moving under the snow, pouncing until they catch their prey. Another advantage for Arctic foxes is that their fur changes colours with the seasons. In the winter, their white fur helps them blend into snowy surroundings while their greyish brown fur is similar to the environment during the summer months. When hunting tactics fail, cheeky Arctic foxes have been known to follow in the footsteps of the premier predator, the polar bear, and feed on leftover scraps.

Quick Stats:

  • The Arctic fox has the warmest pelt of any animal in the Arctic, enduring temperatures as low as -50°C
  • They are carnivores and scavengers
  • Arctic foxes live in underground burrows that can have up to 100 entrances and have likely been used by numerous prior generations
  • Females tend to be smaller than males
  • Arctic foxes are monogamous animals and have one mate for life
  • They don’t hibernate and are active year- round
  • The Arctic fox’s approximate lifespan is three to six years in the wild

Check Them Out!

Interested in checking out the Arctic foxes? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Safari where you go on guided hikes of the tundra. Keep your eye open for the clowns of the tundra. Author: Mandy Ams

Narwhal: Inspiring myths

July 29th, 2015 | By | Filed in Wildlife

Narwhal, Paul Nicklen

At one point in your life, you undoubtedly wanted a pet unicorn. Were your dreams shattered when you realized the closest you would get was taping paper roll to your dog’s forehead? Do you still think about this mythical creature and how you can bring a little magic into your life? It just so happens that the Arctic is home to the next best thing, commonly referred to as ‘Unicorns of the Sea.’ We could only be talking about one whale species... Narwhal!

Narwhal: One or two tusks?

Narwhals are medium- sized grey, spotted whales that have a tusk that’s hard to miss! This tusk is a canine tooth that protrudes from the upper left side of the jaw, hence the likeness to unicorns. All males have tusks, but only about 15% of females do as well. Another interesting detail about the ‘Unicorns of the Sea’ is the magical fact that one in 500 males actually has two tusks. Although you may think narwhals use their tusks in an aggressive nature, this is only reported as an occasional occurrence. Narwhals primarily inhabit the Arctic waters of Canada, Greenland and Russia. They are considered an Arctic predator whose diet changes with the climate. Narwhals migrate annually from bays into the ocean as summer approaches, preferring ice-free water in the summer months. Can you really blame them? In the winter, they move offshore towards thicker ice. Witnessing the migration pattern of this species is truly something that cannot be matched and we highly recommend observing these ‘unicorns’ make their move. You might be wondering how narwhals became known as the ‘Unicorns of the Sea.’ Legend has it that medieval Europeans believed that a narwhal tusk was actually the horn from a unicorn. Because they were considered to have magical curing powers, the Vikings and other northern traders were able to sell the tusks for far more than their weight in gold. Today, narwhals are considered the animal that most closely resembles the mythical unicorn.

Quick Stats:

  • Narwhals are darker when born and become lighter with age
  • Male narwhals have made some of the deepest dives recorded for a marine mammal- up to 4900 feet lasting 25 minutes
  • Males are slightly larger than females
  • Their tusks grow throughout life reaching lengths of over 10 feet
  • Narwhals are a near threatened species because of human actions
  • Their lifespan is approximately 50 years

Check Them Out!

Interested in checking out the narwhals? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Kayaking in the Narwhal Summer Feeding Grounds where you can witness male narwhals jousting with their tusks! Author: Mandy Ams

Bowhead Whales: Giants of the Arctic

July 27th, 2015 | By | Filed in Wildlife

bowhead, underwater

Photo by Todd Mintz as a bowhead approached in 30' of water

What do you know about bowhead whales? Did you know they hold some remarkable records in the animal kingdom. Like the fact that they’re the longest living mammal on the planet. However, this was not an easy accomplishment as their population was once driven to the edge of extinction by whaling. We happily report that they have managed to survive it all and proved that they have the longevity to prosper in the chilly Arctic waters they inhabit.

This incredible species stands apart from other whales for various reasons. First off, they don’t have a vacation home. Unlike other baleen whales, bowheads are the only species that stays in the Arctic all year. Though they do go on small trips and migrate short distances, they do not travel great distances to feed or reproduce. (Baleen is a system of flexible material that hangs from the mouth of certain species of whales that they use to sieve food from water.) Bowheads are distinctive. They have a dark grey appearance, typically with a patch of white under their jaw. They have a massive boney skull that can break through two feet of Arctic ice. They don’t have a dorsal fin. They do have two blowholes which can spout water approximately 20 feet high. Bowheads also boast the thickest blubber of any animal and the longest baleen of any whale, measuring three meters.

Bowhead Whale Quick Stats:

  • Bowheads are the longest living mammal on the planet (some reaching 150-200 years old)
  • Its massive head is one- third of its body length
  • Bowheads have the largest open mouth of any animal measuring 12 feet high, 16 feet long and 8 feet wide
  • Some bowheads measure 60 feet long and weigh over 70 tonnes
  • Bowheads are generally slow swimmers that can remain submerged in shallow water for up to 40 minutes in a single dive
  • Female bowheads are larger than males
  • Social and non-aggressive mammals that retreat when faced with conflict

Check them out in the wild

Interested in checking out bowheads in the wild? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island which allows you to visit a newly- discovered molting area! Yes, there are a few spaces left in 2015. Author: Mandy Ams

Happy Mother’s Day

May 10th, 2015 | By | Filed in Wildlife

Polar bear and cub

Polar bear and cub

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there... including these! We love our moms and throughout life, are very dependent on them. Arctic whales, such as narwhals and beluga whales are no different. Belonging to the same Monodontidae family, these two species are rather different in colour and appearance (narwhals are considered the Unicorns of the Sea because of their protruding tusk), yet share many similarities in how they take care of their young.

Narwhals - Happy Mother's Day

Female narwhals start bearing calves between six to eight years of age. After having mated in April or May, gestation lasts for 14 months and a single calf is born the following year between June and August. Beginning their life with a thin layer of blubber, it thickens as they nurse their mother’s milk which is rich in fat. Calves are dependent on their mother’s milk for 20 months which allows them the time they need to learn the necessary skills for survival. A mother’s job is never done though; they must stay close to their young and provide assistance and direction with swimming until their calves are older and more capable.

Belugas - Happy Mother's Day

Female belugas reach sexual maturity when they are between four and nine years old. Most mating usually occurs between February and May with gestation lasting from 12 to almost 16 months, depending on whether the beluga is captive or living in the wild. Female beluga whales typically birth one calf every three years and when the time comes, they travel to bays or estuaries where fresh water flows and gets mixed with salt water, making it considerably warmer. Immediately after birth, baby belugas are able to swim alongside their mothers and nurse underwater. Just like narwhals, calves nurse on their mother’s milk for 20 months. After this point, their teeth have already come in and they are able to supplement their diet with small fish and shrimp. They couldn’t have done it without you, thanks Mom! Author: Mandy Ams
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