Explore Topic: Animals of the North

Northern animals are key features of northern ecosystems. Encounters with animals, large and small, will be a daily occurrence for members of the Alaska Canada Barrenlands Traverse.  Wildlife sightings will be highlighted in reports from the field and posted on the website.  While it is a relatively short list of animals that have found ways to thrive in the harsh northern environment, it would be difficult to overstate their starring role in the human history of the North—they have sustained the indigenous people of the region for millennia and were the driving force behind the epic fur trade era.  Have younger students simply make a list of animals reported by the crew, and do individual research to learn more about ones that interest them. How does this list of animals differ from animals where they live?

For older students the subject of northern wildlife opens possibilities for discussing more complex topics such as:

  • Animal/Human interactions. How have animals shaped the indigenous cultures of the North? What animals have northern people relied upon?  How have these animals been used?
  • Animal Adaptations: Most Northern animals have special adaptations (physical features or behaviors) that assist them with living in this extreme environment. Have students identify some of the interesting ways northern animals have adapted to the Arctic environment. How do they stay warm?  
  • Predators and Prey: Age-old predator-prey relationships are a vibrant part of Northern ecosystems.  Have students identify the North’s major predator and prey species. What do these animals eat?
  • Seasonal Migrants:The timing of the expedition (late winter) means we will be observing those animals that are year-round residents of the North. There is a whole list of additional animals that make remarkable journeys to spend the summer months here. Have students identify some of the major seasonal migrants.




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