Wildlife | WWF-Canada
	© Steve Morello / WWF

Arctic Wildlife

Evolved for life on the ice

Thousands of years of evolution have prepared Arctic species like the polar bear and narwhal for life in close association with the ice. And they have succeeded magnificently, thriving in the harsh Arctic environment, with relatively few predators or competitors.

But climate change is warming the Arctic faster than any other place on Earth, and the ice cover has been changing rapidly, in both extent and thickness, and shrinking far too quickly for these species to adapt.

As the Arctic warms and changes, whales, seals, walruses and polar bears are at risk. These species are critical for the role they play in a functioning ecosystem, as well as their importance to the culture and subsistence economies of northern hunting communities. We need to consider ways to reduce the impact of climate change and human activities on Arctic wildlife, before irreparable damage is done. To conserve these priority species, the time to act is now.
 / ©: Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada
A narwhal (Monodon monoceros) rising through seal holes and rotten ice to catch a breath in the Arctic, Canada.
© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

Canada: home to most of the world’s polar bears

When it comes to conserving Arctic wildlife, Canada has a special role to play. As the country responsible for the second largest area of the Arctic, Canada is home to huge regions of nearly pristine natural ecosystems, not to mention the majority of the world’s polar bear, beluga, narwhal and bowhead whale populations. This gives us a unique opportunity to develop and implement responsible, sustainable long-term plans, so that nature and wildlife can thrive.
 / ©: Steve Morello / WWF-Canon
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) walking on sea ice, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway.
© Steve Morello / WWF-Canon

The path to Arctic wildlife conservation

The most important action to help conserve these species is to slow the rate of climate change, to minimize its impact on the Arctic ecosystem to which they are adapted.

At the same time, we need to identify the areas that are particularly important for ecosystem resilience both now and into the future, and take the necessary steps to conserve that resilience. And we need to reduce the impact of new and additional stressors on these animals, especially from new industrial developments carried out without adequate planning.
 / ©: National Geographic Stock / Paul Nicklen / WWF
Greenland shark, Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Canada.
© National Geographic Stock / Paul Nicklen / WWF

Tracking Arctic species

Identifying important areas for species is essential for planning for a healthy Arctic future. We need to know where different species of animals go to feed, mate, give birth and raise their young. And with so few people and so much space in the Arctic, this information can be difficult to come by.

Traditional knowledge from indigenous peoples can be invaluable, providing insight developed over generations. And new information is increasingly available thanks to tracking technologies that allow us to see where and when species spend their time.

WWF supports tracking of a number of species, including polar bears, narwhals, Greenland sharks, and bowhead whales.

WWF Expert

	© WWF-Canada
Peter Ewins
Lead Specialist, Species Conservation

Caribou and reindeer

	© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

Greenland Shark

	© National Geographic Stock / Nick Caloyianis / WWF
A man preparing meat at a country food market in Sisimiut, Greenland.
© Peter Ewins / WWF-Canada

People & Wildlife

Human residents of the north are intimately connected to the climate and wildlife of the Arctic. Not only have they lived alongside these iconic species for thousands of years, they also rely upon them for subsistence. Because of their extensive traditional knowledge and shared commitment to keeping Arctic ecosystems healthy, WWF often partners with local communities to share knowledge, collaborate on monitoring wildlife movements, reduce incidents of human-polar bear conflict, and assess the toxicity levels of local species, among other projects.