Teaching Students About Arctic Animals

A large part of the Arctic is made up of the Arctic Ocean, mostly covered by sea ice. As a result, the Arctic has extreme weather conditions, with temperatures falling below -58 degrees F. These inhospitable conditions meant that all creatures in the region had to develop adaptations that allowed them to survive there. Despite the extreme weather, various Arctic animals call this region their home.

Polar Bear

Polar bears are one of the most recognizable Arctic animals. They’re the largest bear species in the world. A polar bear weighs between 385 lbs and 1,400 lbs and measures between 6.5 ft and 10 ft. These massive animals have a strong sense of smell; this helps them hunt seals, as they can smell a seal from as far as .5 miles away and even under 3 feet of snow. Their primary diet consists of seals, but they have also been known to hunt small whales. In addition, they will eat roots, seaweed, and other plants if no other food is available.

Polar bears have developed unique adaptations that allow them to live in the Arctic habitat. For example, they have large furry feet with sharp and powerful claws that help them move efficiently on ice. They’re also great swimmers. Polar bears build a thick layer of fat around their bodies, up to 4 inches wide; this protects them from frigid temperatures and provides an energy reserve when food is scarce. Polar bears have black skin under their fur, which helps to absorb heat and keep them warm. Despite appearing white, their hair is made from hollow, transparent fibers that act as insulation. Due to the melting of sea ice caused by climate change, polar bears need to hunt earlier each year; this makes their feeding season shorter, and as a result, they have less time to build up their fat reserves.

Arctic fox

Arctic foxes have thick, warm coat that changes color depending on the seasons. In the winter, their skin is bright white, allowing them to blend in with the surrounding snow and ice. In the summer, their fur changes to a greyish-brown color that helps them camouflage amongst the rocks and plants of the tundra. In addition, they have thick, bushy tail that serves as a cover in cold weather and helps them balance. Arctic foxes measure between 18 and 26 and weigh between 6.6 lbs and 20 lbs.

Arctic foxes hunt rodents, birds, and fish. When prey is insufficient, they follow polar bears and scavenge their leftovers. Arctic foxes are well-adapted to the freezing conditions of the Arctic regions and can withstand temperatures as low as -58 degrees F. Some of their adaptations include furry paws and short ears.


Walruses are pretty giant! Some males can weigh over 3,500 lbs. They are the largest fin-footed mammals, also called pinnipeds. Unlike other pinnipeds, walruses can walk on their hind fins. The average lifespan of these incredible Arctic animals is 40 years. They are mostly recognizable by their massive tusks that can grow almost a meter long. Male walruses use these tusks to fight and show dominance. These tusks also help them climb onto the ice. You can tell a walrus’s age by the number of rings in the cross-section of its tusk.

Their bodies store a lot of blubbers, which helps protect them from the cold temperatures of the Arctic. It also serves as a source of energy when food is scarce. Walruses can float vertically in the water and even sleep this way, thanks to air sacs located along their neck. They have thick, wrinkled skin up to 4 inches wide. Their diet includes marine animals such as shrimp, crabs, mollusks, and clams. Walruses will forage the sea floor searching for food using their sensitive whiskers called vibrissae.

Snowy Owl

The snowy owl is unique and different from other owl species because it needs to develop some adaptations to help it survive in the inhospitable habitat of the Arctic. It is one of the few owl species that has mainly white plumage. Younger owls will have more brown and dark markings that eventually turn white as they age. Snowy owls measure between 7 and 12 cm. Their wingspan ranges from 4 to 5 ft.

Snowy owls hunt at night, but unlike other species, they also hunt during the daytime. They’re patient hunters and will wait to locate their prey before flying after it. They have exceptional eyesight and hearing, which helps them detect prey even under plants or snow. Snowy owls use their strong paws to snatch their prey. They mainly eat lemmings, but they will also eat other small mammals, fish, and birds. An adult snowy owl can eat up to 1600 lemmings per year.


Lemmings are small rodents. These tiny Arctic animals grow to 5-18 inches in length and weigh around 23g. They are herbivores and mainly eat mosses and grasses. They can often be found foraging for berries, leaves, and shoots. Unlike other rodents, they don’t hibernate over the winter. Instead, they stay active, burrowing in the snow to find food. Lemmings create large tunnel systems in the snow with various areas for rest and other activities.

Arctic Hare

Arctic hares live in the North American parts of the Arctic tundra. They can weigh between 5 and 12 lbs and measure 16 – 30 inches. Arctic hares are speedy runners; they can run up to 40 miles per hour. These animals have adapted to the extreme environment of their polar habitat with short ears and limbs, a small nose, and a thick coat. Their coat is pure white in the winter and brown in the summertime. It helps them blend in with their surroundings and protect themselves from predators.

Arctic hares eat mosses, woody plants, and lichens. They are herbivores, which means they only eat plants. They also eat leaves, berries, and roots in the summer. Their bodies store a lot of fat, up to 20%. This layer of fat provides important insulation that protects them from the cold.

Harp Seal

Harp seals prefer to spend most of their time swimming in the icy Arctic Ocean. Adult harp seals measure between 5.5 to 6.5 feet long and weighs from 250 to 300 lbs. Adult seals are silver-gray. Their pups have white coloring. This color helps them blend in with their surroundings, as they’re born on the sea ice and remain there until they become strong enough to swim. Harp seals are social animals that live in large groups. They produce a wide variety of vocalizations with which they communicate with each other.

Harp seals have a thick layer of fat around their bodies that helps to protect them from freezing temperatures. Their diet includes mainly fish and sea invertebrates. They catch their prey by diving into the ocean and can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes.

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