Wildlife | WWF-Canada
	© Mary Montefusco

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 among sea ice. And they have succeeded, thriving in the harsh environment with relatively few natural predators or competitors.

But climate change is warming the Arctic twice as fast as any other place on Earth, causing ice cover to shrink and thin out — and it’s happening too quickly for species to adapt.

As the Arctic changes, populations of whales, seals, walruses and polar bears become increasingly at risk of decline. These species are critical for the role they play in a healthy ecosystem, and they remain of great importance to the culture and subsistence economies of Indigenous communities.
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 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.
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) walking on sea ice, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway.
© Steve Morello / WWF-Canon

The most important action to help conserve these species is to slow the rate of climate change and 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 and research.


People and wildlife

Northern communities 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 on them for subsistence. Because of their extensive traditional knowledge and shared commitment to keeping Arctic ecosystems healthy, WWF often partners with 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.

At a glance

The Canadian Arctic is home to iconic species. Here’s a look at around how many call Canada home.

Polar bear: 16,000
Narwhal: 150,000
Atlantic walrus: 21,000
Bowhead whale: 18,000
Arctic fox: 100,000