Wildlife

Wildlife in the High Arctic is very healthy and it is wonderfully diverse, with many species that arrive in migratory seasons, not unlike other places of the Far North. Numerous animals live up here all year-round, like the Ring Seal, Bearded Seal, Polar Bear, Muskox, Arctic Wolf, Arctic Fox, Arctic Hare, Lemming, Weasel, Beluga Whale, Narwhal, and Walrus.

Our migratory waterfowl species include the Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Brant, Red-throated Loon, Common Eider Duck, King Eider Duck and Oldsquaw. Other local seabirds include the Glaucous Gull, Common Gull, Ivory Gull, Long-tailed Yeager, Black-legged Kittiwake, Fulmar, Black-billed Murre, and the Puffin.

Thousands of nesting birds such as the Fulmar, Kittiwake, Puffin, Murre, Red-legged Guillimond and King Eider Ducks migrate into the Grise Fiord area to lay their eggs each year. Some of these avian species winter here like Red-legged Guillimonds and King Eider Ducks. Snowy Owls winter in the High Arctic, as do some Rock Ptarmigans. Most Rock Ptarmigans appear here in late March, coming down from the mountaintops. Every spring far-flying Arctic Terns return from the South Pole to nest on our nearby islands.

In early April, the Fulmar seabirds begin migrating westward, flying over frozen Jones Sound, from Coburg Island to Hell Gate, then across Cardigan Strait`s open waters near the western corner of Ellesmere Island, northwest of Devon Island. In late April, the Snow Buntings and Glaucous Gulls arrive. There are two large bird cliffs for viewing Black-tipped Seagulls located just 8 kilometres from Grise Fiord. Snow Geese arrive here in May, and Common Eider Ducks enter the fiords in late June to lay their eggs.

Polar Bear hunting was traditionally practiced year-round, whenever these great animals were available. With the introduction of a quota system, Inuit hunters limited themselves to only harvesting Polar Bears in April and early May. Today the Polar Bear is harvested on a need-only basis during the Sport Hunting season.

The Muskox hunting quota is 86 animals per year, but in some seasons only five-to-ten of them are ever harvested. The prized Muskox hair, called `kivioq` in Inuktitut, is combed out, cleaned, and then spun to make one of the finest wools known in the world. Anywhere, but especially in the High Arctic, ‘kivioq’ is considered to be one of the warmest woollen linings for mittens! Muskox meat makes a delicious stew. The horns are very popular with jewelry makers from Iqaluit.

When pods of Narwhal enter Jones Sound in the spring and summer they feed on Arctic Cod and Halibut near the floe-edge. Later in the summertime the Narwhals move further into the fiords to feed on more Arctic Cod. The highly nutritious skin of this marine mammal is called ‘muktuk’ in Inuktitut. It is much in demand for its tasty flavour and rich Vitamin C content. Fresh Narwhal meat makes delicious whale steaks, and its meat is also dried into jerky.

Two groups of Beluga whales visit the Grise Fiord area annually. One group winters at the floe-edge and, in the summertime, another group arrives from the Kugluktuk (Coppermine) area of the Bering Strait.

Walruses migrate westward through Jones Sound in July then return east in October to winter near the largest polynya in North America, which is located between Ellesmere Island and Greenland.

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