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Endangered Tundra Animals

Updated on May 23, 2011

Introduction

The animals of the tundra are some of the most iconic animals on the planet. From the polar bear to the snowy owl they are loved by millions of animal lovers the world over. Today they all face pressures from human contact, pollution climate change and over hunting. Let's take a look at exactly what animals are currently threatened or endangered.

Animals on the Edge

The world's tundra regions are comprised of areas such as the Arctic, Antarctic, Northern North America, Canada, Russia and Greenland. These desolate, cold and barren environments are host to a number of hardy plants and well animals well adapted to their habitat. However, despite all their evolutionary traits that help them survive the cold, snowy climates of the tundra, some of these animals now face the possibility of extinction due to loss of habitat and changing global weather patterns.

List of tundra animals facing pressure

1. Arctic Fox

The arctic fox is one of the most endearing images of the tundra. While it is not listed as an endangered species, with a population of several thousand, there are two sub-species of arctic fox which have been placed on the endangered species list. On Russia's Mednyi Island the fox population has decreased to as few as 90 animals due to a parasite spread by common dogs. Another population experiencing a a decline in numbers exists on the Finland, Norway and Sweden landmass. This population of foxes there was decimated by over hunting and has never fully recovered as it lacks a critical number of breeding pairs of animals. The small numbers of foxes are also sensitive to fluctuations in the availability of prey and outbreaks of disease. Further threats to the arctic fox include diminishing Arctic ice, which allows red foxes from adjoining habitats to encroach on the territory of the arctic foxes and compete for food.

2. Polar Bears

Polar bears can be found in Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Alaska. Polar bears are currently listed as vulnerable with a decreasing population. Polar bears live in icy conditions are use these grownds for hunting and raising young.. Rising global temperatures threaten to decrease the polar bears environment and as such their available food resources. The next 50 years could see a dramatic decline in the number of polar bears living in the tundra regions with some scientists estimating as much as a 50% decline in annual sea ice by 2100. While all bear species have shown adaptability in coping with their surroundings, polar bears are highly specialized for life in the Arctic marine environment. Polar bears require a long time to raise young to become independent adults. It is predicted that this long nurturing time will work against the polar bear as the quality of sea ice decreases. Young bears will face increased dangers in navigating the poor ice conditions and will be subjected to risk of injury and death.

3. Caribou

Porcupine Caribou are found in Northern Alaska and the Central Arctic. These animals face potential threats from the increasing amount of gas and oil mining and industrial development. A computer model of a Porcupine caribou herd suggests that the combination of a deeper winter snow and increased insect harassment could significantly decrease the female's body fat. Since there is a strong correlation between autumn body fat and successful spring births, the projected weather changes could reduce caribou birth rates by about 40 percent.

Poaching of caribou is a major threat in the Russian Federation. Loss of habitat in Finland though forest logging may cause future problems and there is increased disturbance to the species in some areas due to winter sporting activities. Hybridization with semi domesticated reindeer is a potential problem for some subspecies and sub-populations and has led to the construction of long, tall fences to keep the two deer separate.

White-tailed deer harbor and release meningeal worms into the habitat that usually are fatal to moose and caribou but are clinically benign in deer. Predation by an expanding coyote population threatened a remnant caribou herd in southeastern Quebec . Long-term steady decline in the taiga-dwelling population in Ontario has been associated with the expansion of forest harvesting. A caribou decline would reduce the availability of food for predators such as wolves and damage a traditional foundation of the northern native economy.

4. Narwhal

Narwhals are found in the Atlantic area of the Arctic. The name Narwhal means "corpse whale" because it often swims belly up, laying motionless for several minutes. In the summer months Narwhals spend about two months in the high Arctic, ice-free shallow bays and fjords. During winter they are found further offshore in the deep ice covered environments along the Continental slope. The Narwhals migrate each year between these two seasonal regions with the migration lasting about two months.

Narwhals are currently listed as "Threatened". Although the exact number of Narwhal living today is difficult to estimate there is some ongoing debate that their numbers may be declining due to over hunting and changing climate conditions. The narwhal is an important animal to the native people of the arctic as they provide much needed vitamin C from their skin. One of the only sources of vitamin C for people living there. Today Narwhals are also hunted for there ivory tusks which can be sold for over $4000 dollars on the Eurasian black markets. There have been a few attempts to breed narwhals in captivity, but they rarely survive more than a few weeks or months after being captured. They are temperamental breeders and poor candidates for captive breeding.important part of Greenland's traditional, sustainable economy.

So as we can see one of the main reasons why animals face pressures in the Arctic Tundra is due to climatic changes which are ongoing. Many conservation programs have been established to assist these animals to stabilize and increase their populations once again. Some of the best sights you can access on the internet include Terraformers Canadian Tundra Conservation Foundation, The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), WWF Conservation Action Network and finally the The Alaska Coalition.

Tundra Videos

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    • profile image

      paiges simpson 10 months ago

      the polar bears are really cute . I would help them butt I do not like the Idea of going to the tundra.Love the video!!!!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      Really enjoyed the video with the momma and her babies. Nice to meet you. Hope to see some pictures and great stories of your homeland and Japan (while you are there).