Extinction is a part of evolution and an inevitable outcome. From the beginning of known history, extinction occurred every year in the world. Some extinctions are natural, while some extinctions are forced.
Forced extinction is caused because of the inability of humans to look up to mother earth. Every area is losing its inhabitants, and so is the home of arctic animals. The Arctic region has a significant number of endangered species. The ten of them is listed below.
Table of Contents
1. Polar bear
The largest alive bear species and the largest extant land carnivores, polar bears, most famous arctic animal are hypercarnivore creatures.
Encompassing the arctic ocean, the surrounding seas, and surrounding landmasses, the bear is native within the arctic circle.
An adult male weighs between 350 -700 kg, while an adult female weighs just half of the male. The sister species of brown bear, the polar bear, has acclimatized to its surrounding developing characteristics for cold temperature.
The bears spent most of the time in the sea ice hunting their preferable food, seals, from the edge of the sea ice. The polar bears are significant figures in the lives of circumpolar peoples and are often known as white bears.
Due to global warming and climate change, the arctic ice is melting so quickly. It is causing a habitat loss of the polar bears. The large-scale hunting also stirred up the tension about the polar bear internationally.
Due to these reasons, the number of polar bears has plummeted over the last decade. The polar bears are already listed in the vulnerable list, and they are believed to be extinct by the year 2100.
2. The arctic fox
The most endearing animal in the tundra region, the arctic fox, is a small fox native to the polar areas of the northern hemisphere. The species is known for its thick warm fur and camouflage.
With extensive and puffy tails, the average life of the fox is about one year, but some exceptional individuals live up to eleven years.
The fox has a quirk to change its thick white fur to a short brown coat depending on the seasons. The body is round-shaped to avoid heat loss from the body. The body length of the species ranges from 46 to 68 cm.
Small creatures such as lemmings, voles, ringed seals, pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds are the prey of the arctic fox.
The numbers of the arctic fox have plunged over the last few years. The leading cause of the problem is overhunting in some areas.
Another reason the arctic fox is considered a vulnerable species is because the arctic ice is shrinking due to global warming, pushing the survival limits of the polar areas. The red foxes are seen killing the arctic fox because of the pursuit of the same food.
Decrease in the number of arctic foxes while there is a proliferation in the numbers of red foxes. If things are not controlled, the extinction of the arctic fox may not be far off.
Caribou, popularly known as reindeer, is a species of deer with a circumpolar distribution. Native to arctic, subarctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America, the species’ size differs according to the habitats.
The reindeer grow antlers annually. Typically, males grow more giant antlers than females. The size of antlers on females depends on population and seasons.
The arctic peoples mainly depend on reindeer for food, shelter, and clothes, and it is also a means of transportation for several arctic and sub-arctic peoples.
Out of 14 sub-species of caribou, two are already extinct while others are on the brink of extinction. The cause that is rendering the end of this species is habitat destruction.
Many areas in the tundra region are undermining projects seeking oil and gas. It destroys reindeer habitats: the reindeer are forced to seek home and adapt to different environments.
They are also the victims of large-scale hunting as the antlers, skin, and the meat holds a heavy price. Due to these reasons, there is no surprise that the caribou will go extinct soon.
4. Northern curlew
Northern curlew, widely popular as Eskimo curlew, is a curlew species in the family Scolopacidae. About thirty centimeters in length, the Eskimo curlew are small birds.
The bird weighs approximately 360gm and has a wingspan of 70cm. Adults have long dark greyish legs, and a long bill curved slightly downward.
The underparts are light brown, while the upper parts are mottled brown. They sustain themselves by eating berries, and small insects and Snails are their primary source of diet.
The species was an abundant shorebird in the tundra of western arctic Canada and Alaska. During the 1800s, more than two million birds were hunting victims every year.
At one time, the birds were the most numerous—hunting during the nineteenth century brought down the fate of the species.
At the end of the nineteenth century, almost every bird perished. A report of 23 birds in Texas in 1981 is recorded. Right now, some countries are giving proper facilities to protect the species.
5. The walrus
The Walrus is a flippered marine animal and the only living species in the family of Odobenidae and genus Odobenus.
There are two species of Walrus: the Atlantic walrus that live in the Atlantic ocean and the Pacific walrus that live in the Pacific ocean.
Adult male Walrus weigh more than 2000 kg. Walruses are known for their tusks and whiskers. Walruses are one of the social animals and are considered a keystone species.
Walruses had a significant role in the cultures of indigenous arctic peoples. Walruses are killed for blubber, walrus ivory, and meat, leading to a decrease in the number of walruses.
The walruses are facing the same problems that the polar bears face. With the arctic sea ice melting because of climate change, it isn’t easy to find food.
They have no place to go if the ice completely melts. Sea ice in the Arctic is declining at 13 percent per decade. The information tells us that walruses could be gone very soon.
6. Beluga whale
The beluga whale, often known as the white whale, is an arctic and subarctic cetacean. White whales have adapted well in the arctic: anatomical and physiological characteristics differentiate them from other cetaceans.
The dorsal fin, usually located on most marine and freshwater vertebrates, is absent in beluga whales. It is why the beluga whales can swim with ease under the ice. The whales are all white in appearance.
At the front of its head, the whale has a distinctive protuberance home to an echolocation organ called melons. Adult whales grow up to 5.5m long and weigh 1600 kg.
The whales are slow swimmers. The whales are gregarious animals capable of smiling, communicating, and exquisite movements.
The diets of beluga whales vary according to the locations and the seasons. As the fossil fuels extraction process increases, the beluga whales are exposed to more significant extinction risks.
The beluga whales were victims of hunting for many centuries. The species is reported to have a life expectancy of over 30 years; however, hunting and other causes are not letting it survive to its full potential. As of 2012, only 321 whales are alive.
A couple of decades ago, there were seventy-five percent more whales than in 2012. This reduction in numbers made the species a vulnerable species.
Currently, 33 whales are in protection in care facilities in North America. Research is carried out to breed the whales. If the captive breeding programs are successful, the species might not doom from the world.
Narwhal, also known as narwhal, is one of the two living whale species in the family monodontidae and the beluga whale.
The whale is a medium-sized toothed whale with a large “tusk” from a protruding canine tooth. The body size of a male can range from 3.95 to 5.5m.
The adult narwhal can weigh up to 800 to 1600kg. The males are sexually mature from 11 to 13 years old, whereas females are sexually mature from 5 to 8 years old.
Like the beluga whale, they don’t have dorsal fins to help them swim under the sea ice. They migrate from bays into the ocean when summer arrives. Their primary food source is arctic cod and Greenland halibut during the summer.
While in winter, they feed on benthic prey and flatfish under dense pack ice. Narwhals communicate with clicks, whistles, and knocks. The life expectancy of the whale is 50 years.
The international union of conservation of nature (IUCN) categorized the narwhal as a threatened species. Narwhals often die getting trapped under the sea ice. They are also prey to orcas known as killer whales.
The previously estimated number of narwhals was about 50,000. The narwhals’ skins are a source of vitamin c for which the arctic peoples hunt them.
The ivory tusks are also why the whales are searched widely and killed. Moreover, because of the reasons, the species could perhaps become extinct from the world.
8. Arctic peregrine falcon
The peregrine falcon is historically known as the duck hawk in North America. The falcon is a cosmopolitan bird of prey, and it is renowned for its strong hunting ability, high trainability, and versatility.
The bird is also used as a religious, royal, or national symbol across areas of human civilization. The falcon is known for its speed, reaching over 320 km/h during high-speed diving.
Peregrine falcons are sexually dimorphic, and the females are usually thirty percent larger than the males. The breeding occurs from the arctic tundra to the tropics, nearly everywhere except the polar regions.
The bird has a body length of 34-58 cm and a wingspan of 74-120m. The males and the females have similar markings and plumage.
The falcons were once an endangered species. The human interference in nature and the pesticides used in agriculture dwindled the falcon population.
The falcons began eating contaminated prey because of DDT used in fields, making their eggs fragile and breaking during incubation.
The species went almost extinct due to vicious hunting. However, when DDT was prohibited in the 1970s, the falcons started recovering.
A species is saved because of the immediate actions taken by humans. Although it doesn’t mean the species cannot be endangered again if we don’t abide by the rules.
9. Wood bison
The wood bison, also famous as mountain bison, is a distinctive northern subspecies of American bison.
It is native to Alaska, Yukon, western northwest territories, northeastern British Columbia, north of Alberta, and northwestern Saskatchewan.
The bison are often mistaken as buffalo, but they are only distantly related to the true buffalo.
Wood bison are herbivorous animals that feed on grasses, sedges, and forbs. Due to heavy snowfall in their natural habitat, they struggle to find food and survive through different diets.
Wood bison reaches sexual maturity at the age of 2 years. The bishop is classified as a threatened species. Due to the snowfall, the bishops are deprived of essential food sources leading to death.
The species also suffered a massive loss because of an epidemic. Hunting decreased the number of bishops in the world.
There are only a few sightings of the bishop and the only wild herds left are located at the Alaska wildlife conservation center.
10. Arctic owl
The arctic owl is called snowy-owl, polar-owl, and white-owl. The owl is a large white owl of the true owl family. Native to polar regions of North America Palearctic, mainly breeding on the tundra.
It is the only owl with white plumage. Male is of pure white color while the females have extensive flecks of dark brown.
The snow owl has contrary characteristics to regular owls: snow owls are often active during the day. The snow owl is nomadic.
The snow owl rarely breeds in the exact location or with the same partner annually. The birds can wander or migrate to anywhere close to the arctic. Some of the snowy owls are also seen in the south.
There is little known information about such an unpredictable bird. The global population of arctic owls was once estimated at over 2000 individuals.
However, the recent statistics show fewer than 1000 arctic owls, and the species is declining precipitously.
The cause of the decline of the species is still not understood. It may have to be related to complex environmental factors such as global warming.
So many species become extinct every year. Many species cannot adapt to an unstable environment, and that’s fine. That’s part of the process. What’s not okay is human interference in the wild, causing species extinction.
Out of extinct species, many are extinct because of humans’ ignorant actions. So to stop or prevent death, we must control our actions. These actions have shown cruel impacts on Arctic animals.
For instance, global warming caused by humans is destroying both the ecosystem and humans. We must protect the endangered species without maximum effort so our future generation can see biological diversity.
The best way to save an arctic animal is by holding the arctic. Find our article on seven last-ditch ways to keep the arctic.
(Last Updated on March 24, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)