When I think of the Arctic tundra, I think of polar animals, snowy land that looks like one big ice sheet, and even ice caps. To live in the Arctic region you need to have serious survival skills or be a hardy creature. There is so much to learn about arctic animals. Check out these arctic animals facts for kids.
What is The Arctic
Arctic is a greek word that means “bear”. The Arctic is located in the northern most part of the Earth. There are 8 nations that surround it: The United States, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. Winter temperatures can be -50 degrees in the Arctic environment. Negative 50 degrees is really cold!
What Animals Live in The Arctic
Arctic animals need special adaptations to be able to survive in an Arctic habitat. These fascinating creatures have multiple layers of fur, extra body fat, and even hair or pads on their feet to move across snow and ice. Here are some cool facts about your favorite animals that live in the Arctic.
When I think of the Arctic I think of polar bears. Polar bears are the largest type of bear. They are land animals that can run fast and also swim far in Arctic waters. A polar bear can swim underwater too. Male polar bears are twice as big as female polar bears!
This great bear has two thick fur coats. They help keep them warm and dry. It’s waterproof fur! Underneath their fur, they have black skin. This traps the heat and helps to keep their bodies warm. Under that is a layer of fat. The fat keeps their body warm in extreme cold and also helps them to swim easier.
The pads on the bottom of the bear’s feet are covered in fur and have small bumps to keep the bear from slipping on the frozen ice of the Arctic Ocean. That’s kind of like the tread on the bottom of our shoes.
The polar bear has a strong sense of smell. It can smell food up to a mile away. They eat mostly meat such as seals, birds, and fish.
Polar bears do NOT hibernate. Instead, in the Fall the polar bear mothers will make a snow den to have babies and raise them (usually two babies). The cubs will stay with their mother for about two years. After that, the baby polar bear is on its own. In fact, most polar bears do live by themselves.
An interesting fact about the polar bear is that the older it is, the more yellow its fur becomes. Did you know that polar bears give themselves a bath by rolling around in the snow?
Because arctic hares live through such cold winters, their bodies are made up of about 20% fat to keep them warm. Their ears and noses are smaller too. A smaller nose and ears keep more body heat in.
Arctic Hares are fast! They can move up to 40 mph (as fast as a car)! That speed can help it escape from predators like a fox, a wolf, an owl, or a hawk. Arctic Hares eat plants and moss. They often need to dig through the snow to find it.
Snowy owls have thick feathers that keep them warm in cold temperatures. The whitest snowy owls are males while the females have a bit of a dark color on the tips of their feathers. Unlike most owls, snowy owls hunt during the day and sleep at night. They eat lemmings (small rodents) or ptarmigan (a medium sized bird).
Beluga Whales live together in groups of about 10 in cold waters. Its white color helps it to blend in to icy waters. They have teeth and actually molt their skin once a year. Molt is another word for shed, so it sheds its skin every year.
A beluga whale uses echolocation to find food. Echolocation is figuring out how close or far away things are by the way noise bounces off of them. They eat things like crab, shrimp, squid, and octopus.
The adaptable arctic fox has fur that changes color in different seasons. They have fur on their paws so that they can walk on snow and ice.
The arctic fox, also known as a snow fox, has a strong sense of hearing. That helps for hunting birds, fish, and lemming (a small rodent). The main predator of the arctic fox is a wolf or the red fox.
Believe it or not, arctic foxes don’t hibernate. Another interesting fact is that a male and a female will pair up and live together for life to take care of their pups.
A sea otter is the smallest marine animal. It has a thick fur coat to keep it warm in extreme conditions. Sea Otters spend more time in water than on land so it is a good thing that they have webbed hind feet to help them swim well. They also have a little pocket in their fur under the front legs to put food in when diving under water. That’s handy!
Sea otters eat clams and mussels. They use rocks to smash the shells open. Isn’t that smart? Sea otters live in groups of 10 or more. They can sometimes be in groups of even 100. They need to watch out for orca whales and sometimes sharks that are trying to eat them.
A musk ox is a big animal that can weigh as much as 800 pounds. They have brown fur, horns, and short legs. Because they have short legs, they try to avoid deep snow.
The musk ox is a plant eater that feeds mostly on grasses. They live in herds of 5 to 60. If predators try to attack the young or weak, the musk ox herd will form a circle around the young or weak to protect them. A circle of musk ox would be really intimidating to an intruder!
The Narwhal is a type of whale found in the Arctic waters that is not seen very often. It is known for its straight tusk that comes out of its upper jaw. Male Narwhals have the tusk and females do not. Narwhal eat fish and shrimp.
An arctic tern has the longest migration, more than any other bird. They fly over 19,000 km a year. Arctic terns need to watch out for foxes, cats, and large birds.
Snow Geese migrate south in the Winter. They typically live in North America and Canada. Snow geese eat plants such as grasses and shrubs.
Problems in the Arctic
Global warming and climate change are harming the Arctic in recent years. It is happening three times as fast in the Arctic than the rest of the world. That is causing ice to melt, erosion, and bigger storms.
- In the Arctic Circle, there is at least 1 day a year that is sunshine for 24 hours a day in the Summer and darkness for 24 hours a day in the Winter.
- The North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.
- Although the Arctic Ocean is twice the size of Australia, it is still the smallest of the 5 major oceans on Earth.
Isn’t there so much to learn about animals of The Arctic? Which animal is your favorite? The polar bear? Sea Otters? The beluga whale? There are so many amazing animals in The Arctic that it makes it hard to choose.