There’s been much speculation about the future of animals in the North Pole. We’ve all seen the image of the bear clinging to the sheet of melted ice. However, the polar bear isn’t the only animal up there. Today we’re going to talk a bit about the polar bear of course, but we’re also going to discuss some other animals that are native to the Arctic region. Those animals will include such likable fellas as the killer whale, reindeer, and the snow owl. Then you will see the impact that our local habits are having on our global neighbors.
While polar bears are one of the many animals in the North Pole, they’re not actually native to the Pole. They dominate the Arctic but travel to the North Pole to hunt. Their main source of food is seals, which keeps the polar bear in and around the coastal waters of the North Pole. Their favorite is the harp seal and the northern fur seal.
The main reason people believe that the polar bear calls the North Pole home is because he’s had to travel farther and farther out of his comfort zone in search of food. His delicious seals have started migrating to find their own sources of food. Therefore he must follow. While evidence doesn’t show the polar bear hibernating at the North Pole just yet, it probably won’t be long before he sets up camp on a regular basis to stay close to his prey.
The killer whale is considered one of the largest animals in the North Pole, although technically it lives in the waters surrounding the coast. With recent melting of the ice sheets in the Arctic, the whales have had more feeding ground to cover. Researchers and whale watchers have reported nearly twice as many sightings in the past decade as there were in the 20 years before. However, these same researchers are scratching their heads as to what these killer whales are eating. Since fish are a staple of the killer whale diet, and there aren’t many fish to choose from in the frozen waters off the North Pole, what are they eating? Well the answer most scientists are coming up with is other whales!
Sadly for this enormous creature, even at the North Pole it can’t escape its own predators. Whales have been hunted for their blubber for many decades and the freezing temperatures at the North Pole don’t deter the whale hunters. Whales have thick layers of blubber under their skin to keep them alive in the ice filled continent. Yet that same blubber is used for archaic methods of fueling homes and industrial buildings in some countries to this day. Fortunately, many global governments have put a ban on whaling and the populations of these majestic creatures have seen a comeback.
Rudolph has to be the most famous of all the animals in the North Pole. But popular culture aside, other reindeer have made the North Pole home. The term reindeer is actually a generic term for many animals such as caribou. It depends on what part of the world you call home. But whatever you call them, reindeer lead quite a nomadic lifestyle. They can travel up to 3,000 miles in one year. This is great for their lives at the North Pole because the weather can be quite frigid if they stay in one spot too long. They travel in large herds with many generations of their family moving together. Their top coat has guard hairs that keep the cold temperatures from reaching their core. It’s also great for keeping out the freezing rain that the tundra is known for year-round.
As for hunting, we know the reindeer has those giant antlers, including the females. However they must rely mainly on their super sniffers to detect prey hiding under layers of snow. They will then dig through that snow with the hooked edges of his hooves until he finds his dinner. If the target is something a bit larger, then the antlers are great for impaling or at least stunning their victim. With the larger prey reindeer tend to hunt in packs and share the catch with their entire herd.
Finally we come to one of the most beautiful animals in the North Pole. The snow owl stands only a couple feet tall when full grown and is covered entirely by snow white fur. The snow owl, although technically a bird, prefers to stay on low lying ground most of its life. It’s most comfortable in long open areas that are found in the North Pole. These owls also normally mate for life, beginning around their 2nd year of maturity. Also, each clutch can yield from 3-8 eggs, depending on food availability.
Speaking of food, the snow owl relies mainly on the availability of rodents and other small animals. The North Pole snow owl doesn’t see many of those so he has to hunt for bigger game. They tend to feed on small hares and lemmings, or anything else that stumbles in their path. This actually includes some other members of the bird family like herring and ducks. The snow owl hunts quite like the reindeer in that it can hear its prey from underneath many layers of snow. It then shoves its head deep into the snow bank to pull out they food. The amazing thing about the snow owl is that it starts this hunt from somewhere high, like a tree or mountain cliff, and can still hear the tiny prey scurrying from below.
These are just a few of the many magnificent animals in the North Pole. There are tons more, big and small that are being affected by climate and pollution. The polar bear, killer whale, reindeer, and snow owl lifestyles can show us a great deal about how we’re affecting the animal populations from the cute and furry to the huge and ferocious. The fact that some of these animals didn’t even call the North Pole home just 15 years ago should tell us something about the hardships they’ve faced.