Wildlife Viewing Animals
Beluga | qinalugaq
Bouncing in a boat on the sea alongside a pod of playful beluga whales is a boisterous, musical experience to enjoy!
Bowhead | arviq
Watching these gentle giants of the north majestically gliding through Nunavut waters has always been a great solace and cultural inspiration to the Inuit!
Caribou | tuktu
Few sights are more spectacular than witnessing a massive herd of these migrating beasts thundering over the tundra!
Muskox | umingmak
A lucky encounter with these shaggy, bearded creatures may make you feel that you've been transported back in time!
Narwhal | qilalugaq
The most unique whale inhabiting Nunavut waters is the narwhal (monodon monoceros) which lives year-round in the Arctic. Narwhal males are distinguished by a long, straight, helical tusk — a modified incisor tooth — extending up to three metres (10 ft.) in length from their upper left jaw. The exact purpose of this ‘unicorn’ tusk remains a scientific mystery. In winter, narwhals feed mostly on squid and flatfish at depths of up to 1,500 metres (4,921 ft.) under dense pack ice. In summer, they move closer to shore, which is better for viewing them. Usually travelling in pods of four to 20 animals, the narwhal is deemed vulnerable to climate change due to its specialized diet and narrow geographical range between Canada and Greenland. Narwhals can be enjoyed near the Nunavut communities of Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Resolute.
It is a magical event to witness the mysterious unicorns of the sea crossing their tusks into the air like swords!
Polar Bear | nanuq
The polar bear (ursus maritimus) is the world’s largest carnivore species found on land, as big as the omnivorous kodiak, but more powerful. ‘Nanuq’ (the Inuktitut word for polar bear) is an extremely dangerous, very patient and highly intelligent predator. An adult male polar bear can grow to three metres (10 ft.) in height when standing up and reach 720 kilograms (1,590 lb.) in body weight. Polar bears are excellent swimmers in the frigid Nunavut waters, travelling great distances across the sea ice to hunt seals along the floe edge. They are attracted to any potential food source, including bird nesting sites such as Akpatok Island, but also to the smells of campers cooking meals in remote locations. To safely see polar bears in Nunavut, from expert communities such as Arviat, Grise Fiord, Hall Beach, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaqand Repulse Bay, trust only an experienced guide or outfitter and use powerful binoculars and telephoto camera lenses.
To safely watch a gigantic snow-white polar bear wandering across the barrens, prowling for seals on the windswept pack ice, or gracefully swimming ahead of her cubs in frigid arctic waves is an unforgettable, supreme lifetime experience!
Seal | natsiq
The smallest, most abundant and most important marine mammal for both polar bears and the Inuit is the ringed seal (pusa hispida) that thrives year-round in arctic waters. It has distinctive dark spots on its coat surrounded by light grey rings, with a small, earless head and short cat-like snout. An adult ringed seal usually grows to 150 centimetres (5 feet) in length and 60 kilograms (132 lb.) in weight. They prefer to rest on large ice floes, breeding and raising their pups on the pack ice, migrating further north for denser ice, ranging as far as the North Pole. Yet, in the springtime, as the sea ice begins to break up, they can be spotted near every single community in Nunavut. They are the primary food source for ‘nanuq’ (polar bears). Human beings have also hunted them for food, plus clothing and tools, since 2500 BC. The current population of ringed seals is estimated to be around two million. Inuit subsistence hunters today harvest fewer than 30,000 ringed seals each year to help feed their families.
Touring Nunavut in the spring when the sea ice breaks up you may be delighted by the curious expressions of seals popping their heads up out of the icy water to check you out!
Walrus | aiviq
The walrus (odobenus rosmarus) is a large flippered marine mammal recognized by its prominent tusks of ivory, whiskers and great bulk. An adult bull walrus can reach four metres (13 ft.) in length and 2,000 kilograms (4,400 lb.) in weight. Walrus tusks — which are elongated canine teeth used for poking holes in the sea ice, for hauling themselves onto the frozen surface and for the violent dominance battles between rival bulls — can reach a length of one metre (3 ft. 3 in.) each. Walruses spend a significant proportion of their life (up to 35 years) on the sea ice in pursuit of their preferred diet of bivalve mollusks. They will dive hundreds of metres deep to the sea bottom to retrieve their favourite food and they can eat up to 4,000 clams in one feeding. Boat tours to see herds of walruses gathered on ice floes can be arranged in Nunavut communities such as Arviat, Coral Harbour, Grise Fiord, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Kimmirut, Kugaaruk, Pond Inlet, Repulse Bay and Sanikiluaq. A tasty Inuit dish is aged walrus meat — ‘igunaq’ in Inuktitut — a treat which elders say tastes like cheese.