Mammals/Animals/Fish

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Polar bear

Ursus maritimus

Since polar bears are unpredictable animals, it is nearly impossible to predict viewings. Polar bears tend to be on the pack ice that travels Lancaster Sound, so our guests have a good chance to see these animals on the excursions that lead us along the Northwest Passage, roughly 10 km from Arctic Watch. However, they can be found anywhere, at any time, often in the most unexpected places such as the raft put-in or the kitchen!

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Muskox

Ovibos moschatus

Muskox are prehistoric inland animals that roam the tundra from one large vegetation area to the next. In ancient times, muskox grazed shoulder to shoulder with mammoths. The rutting season is in August and, if you’re lucky, you can see a head-butting between two animals. Baby muskox look like small highland cattle. Since there is always muskox within the vicinity of Arctic Watch, the chances of observing these animals on excursions are excellent.

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Caribou

Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus and Rangifer tarandus pearyi

The caribou on Somerset Island are of two species: the endangered Peary caribou and the barren ground caribou. Unfortunately, we have not seen or found any trace of them for the past ten years.

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Narwhal

Monodon monoceros

Narwhal migrate through the Northwest Passage past Cunningham Inlet and northern Somerset Island. These extremely shy creatures do not enter the inlet and are difficult to view from the shoreline.

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Ring seal

Pusa hispida

Seals are in view most of the time in the Cunningham Inlet bay. Curious by nature, they sometimes come closer to shore to get a better look at someone walking along it. The ringed seal is the smallest and most common seal in the Arctic. Its coat is dark with silver rings on the back and sides with a silver belly.

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Bearded seal

Erignathus barbatus

Bearded seals are the largest Arctic seal. They have a distinct set of long whiskers and reach weights of up to 1,000 pounds. At Arctic Watch they love to lie on the ice (as long as there is ice) in the sun.

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Walrus

The walrus is an exclusively Arctic species, the sole surviving member of the once diverse and widespreadOdobenidae family. They are easily recognized by their long tusks and great bulk of up to 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) We do not see walrus at Arctic Watch but we do see them from the aircraft during Discovery Week.

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Arctic fox

Alopex lagopus

This is a small cat-like fox, white in the winter and black, brown and tan in the summer. Their population is tied to that of the lemmings. Seen mostly along the shoreline, these creatures can also be viewed at a local fox den approximately 8 km south of the lodge. Since the den has many holes, we call it “fox condo”.

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Lemming

Lemmus trimucronatus

Lemming is the “Arctic mouse.” It looks like a fat, brown, furry mouse with a short stubby tail.

They generally have long, soft fur and very short tails. They are herbivorous, feeding mostly on leaves and shoots, grasses and sedges, but also on roots and bulbs. Like other rodents, their incisors grow continuously, allowing them to exist on much tougher forage than would normally be possible. In the summer, at Arctic Watch they live under rocks or in burrows. They are relatively friendly and do not necessarily run away from humans.

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Arctic wolf

Canis lupus arctos

A sub-species of the grey wolf, Arctic wolves generally are smaller than forest grey wolves and are sometimes called tundra wolves. Males are larger than females and are more aggressive. Arctic wolves are elusive. We have seen them only a few times on Somerset Island.

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Arctic hare

Lepus arcticus Arctic hares look like huge rabbits, but have longer ears, long legs and can stand tall. They weigh up to 5 kg (12 lb). They will travel together with many other hares, sometimes huddling with dozens or more, but are usually found alone, in some cases taking more than one partner. The Arctic hare can run up to 40 miles per hour, and its main predator is the Arctic wolf.

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Arctic woollybear moth

Gynaephora groenlandica

Found mainly in the Arctic and Subarctic region, and best known for its unusually long larval development period, the Arctic moth’s life cycle is an extremely long seven years. Arctic woollybear caterpillars are unique in their adaptations to the polar extremes, spending nearly 90% of their life frozen and only about 5% feeding on the tundra during the month of June; the remainder is spent in protective cocoons.

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Arctic bumblebee

Bombus polaris

The northern bumblebee is huge by southern standards. It has dense fur that slows heat loss. Most often the thorax is black with orange-yellow edges, while most of the abdomen is orange-yellow, sometimes with a black tip. It plays a major part in the pollination of vegetation in the Arctic.

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Arctic char

Salvelinus alpinus

Arctic char is the only freshwater fish in the High Arctic, but it can also live in salt water. They normally overwinter and spawn in a lake, then follow the river to the sea for the summer. Rising land has caused some char to become land-locked, barring them from their instinctual run to the sea. At Arctic Watch we catch (and release) land-locked char in Inukshuk Lake. Sea-run char can be caught at Creswell Bay (at the south end of Somerset Island) and a few other spots.

Arctic char is a great sport fish to catch and tastes amazing!

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Gallery

See our photography galleries for examples of photos that our guests and staff have taken over the years.


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  • Arctic Fox pups at the local den near Arctic Watch
  • Photographing beluga whales in Cunningham Inlet
  • Photographing beluga whales in Cunningham Inlet near Arctic Watch
  • Evening sunshine breaking through the clouds at Arctic Watch
  • A mother snow bunting feeding her chick
  • Arctic fox pups, 5 weeks old, near Arctic Watch

Visit our Youtube channel to see and experience Arctic Watch through the eyes of a guest.


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Beluga Whales at Arctic Watch Wilderness LodgeArctic Hare stretches on the rocks at Arctic WatchArctic Watch Wilderness Lodge: The 5-Star Arctic Experience
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