Spitsbergen Wildlife

During the summer months Spitsbergen comes alive. The tiny tundra flowers are in full blossom and the birdlife is at its peak and the waters are thick with marine life. 

Land mammals

  • Arctic fox can be found searching for eggs and chicks near the bird colonies.  The cubs are also known for their curiosity for noise, and have been known to be whistled from their sets.
  • Reindeer with great antler racks can be seen nibbling on the short grasses at Hornsund.  The clicking of their hooves can be heard and their tame nature allows for close encounters.
  • Tiny lemmings sometimes are heard but not seen scurrying in the lichens and tundra in district vegetation tunnels.


Marine mammals

  • The polar bear has been reclassified as a marine mammal as it spends its time on the sea ice and mainly hunts at sea. They can be found scavenging for eggs and are tenacious creatures, so they make the most of all feeding opportunities.
  • Walrus are an iconic species of the Arctic with long tusks used for digging through the silt searching for food and to haul themselves out of the water and onto ice where they are frequently found. Walrus are notoriously nervous when on land, so distance is required.
  • Whales frequent the waters and are seen when moving between destinations. Ghostly white belugas can be observed but with no dorsal fin they barely break the surface. Bowheads if you are very lucky might be a possibility but more frequent sightings are in Greenland. Narwhals are the Holy Grail and are only likely to be seen in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Other marine mammals include various species of seal including the bearded seal with its long curly whiskers.


Birdlife

Although some species migrate south to warmer climes there are many that breed here in vast numbers.

  • The comical auks look similar to penguins but fly.
  • Towering sea cliffs of gannets can be observed while guillemots cling to the narrowest ledges whose eggs are pointed so they roll in a circle and not over the edge when knocked. 
  • Eider ducks nest on land so are often at risk from predators such as bears and foxes.
  • Arctic terns nest in small stones and are great parents screaming and dive bombing anything that comes too close, including humans. Their tiny fluffy chicks are fantastically camouflaged in the pebbles.  
  • Puffins are the colourful clowns and everyone's favourite.  Nesting in burrows they can be seen flying in with mouthfuls of food.  

 

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