In spite of the domineering Ice Cap, Greenland wildlife has access to a much larger domain than we humans do.
The fiords do not pose the same hurdle for land mammals, birds have their own highways in the air over the fjords, sea and mountains, and ocean animals are tied together by a global, borderless ecosystem.
It is of less significance that the Ice Cap takes up about 80 % of the total landmass in Greenland, a fact which is often dragged out as a special Greenlandic challenge.
“We saw reindeers, polar fox, and muskox. In other countries you are on a bus staring out the window and never see anything, so I thought it would be the same here. But it wasn’t!”
“Along the Arctic Circle Trail we saw muskox, reindeer, snow hare, fox, and various birds! And of course, very different kinds of landscapes – fjords, mountains, and lakes!”
LAND MAMMALS IN GREENLAND
Polar bears, musk oxen, caribou, arctic foxes, hares, eagles, ptarmigan, lemmings and the rare Arctic wolf are all part of the terrestrial fauna of Greenland.
Arctic wolves are found only in the most northern areas and lemmings are located in the Northeastern Greenland, in a small rural zone between the ice sheet and sea ice pack with almost no vegetation, while many of the other animals live more wide spread across the country.
Musk oxen are concentrated in the area around Kangerlussuaq, where more than 10,000 animals graze in a green mountain landscape rounded by ice. All along the west coast, as well as, in large parts of the east coast there are pockets of herds of reindeer, which each year migrate long distances between the interior and the coast in search of food, and to reach summer calving grounds near the ice cap.
In the interface between land and sea, the home of the polar bear, this Greenlandic white coated bear is especially common in Northern and Eastern Greenland, where it hunts from the sea ice, and in Southern Greenland, when it comes ashore after drifting on the sea ice from the East Coast. The Greenland polar bear hunts seals and birds and often during summer will go on shore to consume vegetation. The bears usually do not hibernate during winter.
The hen-like ptarmigan changes color between summer and winter and is always camouflaged well regardless of the season, yet it can never be sure of fast-moving threats from above, and especially the white-tailed eagle and the Greenland falcons are formidable hunters.
The birds in Greenland are as varied as their names are unique. From small buntings, siskin and sparrows to guillemots, puffins, auks, guillemots, terns, kittiwakes, gulls, ravens, owls and many other known species, they each have their own areas of the country which is home to them.
As the list goes on we might just also want to mention the great northern diver, the fulmar, the cormorant, the goose, the eider duck, the merganser, the sandpiper, sand runs, Turnstone and the Arctic skua among many others. The ingenuity used in naming the different species matches their unique diversity.
The birds in Greenland are as varied as their names are unique.
Jumping humpback whales, killer whales on hunting sprees and fast narwhals
GREENLANDIC MARINE ANIMALS
The whales tend to steal the limelight when we talk about marine animals in Greenland, and perhaps not without reason, because they are easy to spot from small expedition cruise ships and coastal sailings on domestic passenger ships.
Jumping humpback whales, killer whales on hunting sprees and fast narwhals that zip in between cracks in the sea ice are just some of the whales, which also include mink whales, beluga whales, blue whales, sperm whales, fin whales and, of course the Greenland whale.
But the sea also has a number of seal species of which the harbor seal, the hooded seal, the bearded seal, the Greenland seal, and the polar bear's favorite food, the ringed seal, are among the most common.
Among the big boys in the class, we find the walrus, which can weigh up to a ton. With tusks that are up to 50 centimeters long, it's hard to miss this beast, when resting on an ice flow can seem somewhat on the slow and heavy side. In the water however, the walrus is an agile swimmer, mostly feeding on snails and clams.
In addition, there is a wide variety of fish and shellfish, some of the most important are cod, shrimp, crab, halibut, redfish, lumpfish, salmon and the Arctic char, coveted by anglers. They are all part of a larger food chain, which also includes human beings in Greenland. Today fishing is a main source of income for Greenland.
Among the big boys in the class, we find the walrus, which can weigh up to a ton.
Sled dogs arrived in Greenland, along with our earliest ancestors more than 4,000 years ago
In the smaller less wild part of Greenland's wildlife, we have a number of domesticated species that play a significant role in our hunting and agricultural culture.
Sled dogs arrived in Greenland, along with our earliest ancestors more than 4,000 years ago, and they have, up until a few decades ago, been used as a means for transportation and mobility in winter everywhere in Greenland, except in the southwestern part of the country. Today, the sled dogs are part of the choice of possibilities we have when moving around in the winter landscape, and they have become a focal point of our winter tourism.
In the south of Greenland, a thousand year old, farming tradition still makes use of horses as draft animals and for collecting the sheep that roam freely in the mountains surrounding the farms.
A modern twist to the picture of animals in Greenland is the emergence of pets in the larger cities. Small breed dogs, cats, hamsters, chinchillas and subtropical birds like canaries. Sure, the wildlife is diverse in Greenland.