2,650: is the estimated number of bears that live in the Svalbard Islands. It’s a number that makes you smile when compared to the number of humans, which is little more than 2,000. In this freezing environment, animals rule the roost. But what other species might we expect to meet within the arctic circle? Let’s discover more about seals, walruses, arctic foxes and reindeers.
The Arctic tundra is not for everyone, but who has managed to adapt and survive?
There are few animals that have been able to adapt to the harsh conditions of the Arctic. Here, animals must not only withstand the extreme cold, but also periods when food is scarce and the nights are long and frigid – at times the skies are dark for 24 hours a day. Only two species of land mammals are found in the Arctic tundra: Arctic foxes and reindeers. The polar bear is, instead, considered a marine mammal, as it spends most of its time on the ice.
Lemming: an extremely rare animal
Here, where 60% of the land is covered in ice and temperatures reach – 40°, survival is simply impossible for certain animal species. For this reason, the Svalbard Islands are almost entirely devoid of insects, mice and lemmings – animals of the rodent family, typically found in northern Norway. This is the reason why arctic foxes have almost totally abandoned inland areas and have adapted to coasts where they can live on the eggs of birds and their young.
The white fox and the blue fox
Arctic foxes are widespread in all the areas surrounding the North Pole, including Canada, Russia, Alaska and, obviously, the Svalbard Islands. They are rather small mammals, generally no taller than 55 cm and weighing about 4 kg. It’s not difficult to recognise an arctic fox: it has small, rounded ears, a short, thin snout and a thick coat that insulates it from the cold. There are two distinct colour morphs: blue and white, which camouflage the fox in the snow, helping it to escape from predators.