There are exceptional opportunities to see wildlife in its natural environment in the Western Arctic. Hike on the treeless tundra to spot migrating caribou or reindeer in season. Herds of muskoxen can be seen and photographed on the Arctic islands. Grizzlies and polar bears are harder to spot, but Arctic wolves and foxes might wander into view. At an Inuvialuit summer camp on the shore of the Beaufort Sea, you might spot beluga and bowhead whales as they cruise the coastline. And everywhere, through the summer, there are nesting birds.
Birds of the Western Arctic
There are four bird sanctuaries in the Western Arctic, one in the Mackenzie Delta, one in the Anderson River delta, and one at Cape Parry. A large part of Banks Island is also given over to a bird sanctuary. Summer residents include terns and gulls, Canada geese, gyrfalcons, peregrine falcons, red-throated loons, sandhill cranes, snow geese and tundra swans. Year round birdlife includes snowy owls, ravens, and rock ptarmigan. The Mackenzie Delta is a favoured summer habitat for breeding swans and many thousands of ducks, geese and songbirds from all areas of the Americas.
Animals of the Western Arctic
The tundra is home to migrating barrenground caribou as well as the domesticated reindeer herd. This is also home to grizzly bears, wolves and Arctic foxes. Muskoxen are found on the mainland and the Arctic Islands. Related to the goat family, muskoxen have a long shaggy outer coat and a fine wooly layer of under fur called qiviut, which they shed in summer. Qiviut is considered one of the lightest and warmest of wools.
Some 2,000 polar bears roam the permanent ice pack of the Arctic ocean and its shores, including the mainland coast and the Arctic islands. They feed on seals which are abundant year round. Beluga and bowhead whales visit the Beaufort Sea each summer.