Contrary to their name, the Bearded Seal doesn’t have a beard. Their name comes from two Greek words, “eri” and “gnathos,” which refers to their strong jaw. It does have very long whiskers that curl up when they are dry, giving it a very posh look that can compete with the walrus’ mustache. They are also the largest northern phocid family and are the only genus Erignathus members, making them very unique for the seal species. These beautiful creatures can weigh almost 1,000 pounds, so there’s no wonder they are a favorite of some predators.
Because of their high-fat content, bearded seals are a significant food source for polar bears. They are also a favorite for local natives like the Inuit, which not only are a substantial part of their diet but also use the blubber for burning it in their stone lamps called “kudlik.” Since their skins are very tough, they are also perfect for making shoes, whips, dog sled harnesses, and even to make summer tents. Overall, these precious seals are an essential part of the Alaskan wildlife and the people who live there.
This small fox is a native of the Arctic tundra biome, which has the most brutal cold temperatures of the area, and this cute white fox is very well adapted to this cold environment. The impressive thing about these foxes is their thick fur that keeps them warm during the winter, and it protects them from predators by camouflaging in the snow, making them invisible. On the coldest nights, to keep themselves warm, they curled up tightly, hiding their legs behind their very fluffy long tail. When they curled up like that, it gives them a smaller surface area to volume ratio and keeps them insulated.
Arctic foxes do not need to hibernate like other animals because of their fur’s thickness, but they preserve fat by being less active in the coldest winter. They start to build up the fat around the fall to the point of increasing their body weight up to 50%, giving them enough energy to survive the winter when food is harder to find. Their diet consists of hunting small animals like lemmings, ringed seal pups, voles, fish, seabirds, and waterfowls. They also love carrion, berries, some insects, and seaweed to have a more balanced diet.
I’m sure you have heard the stories of these beautiful creatures holding hands while they sleep so that they don’t float away from each other. These cute creatures are the heaviest members of the weasel family, but they are also one of the smallest marine mammals you’ll find. Sea otters also have the thickest and most dense coat of fur you will find in the Animal Kingdom, and it keeps them insulated from the cold temperatures of Alaska. Even if they can walk on land, their favorite way of transportation and their favorite habitat is the ocean, where they spend most of their lives.
Their favorite food to catch is sea urchins, crustaceans, mollusks, and fish. There are not too many mammals species that use tools to their advantage, these handy sea otters like using rocks to open shells and dislodge prey, making it easier to get their food. Because of their love of sea urchins, they are considered a keystone species to control the sea urchin population. Without them, this can inflict extensive damage to the kelp forest ecosystems. They are a threatened species, so they are banned from hunting to save this fascinating species from extinction, and so far, the sea otter conservation efforts are working with their numbers growing in the wild.
They’ve been the villains in a few fairy tale stories, but the Grey Wolf is not the big baddie that some people think they are. This wolf is the largest extant member of Canidae, with males weighing approximately 88 pounds and females around 82 pounds. The grey wolf is considered the most specialized for cooperative game hunting because of its capacity to take prey bigger than them in packs, be social, and have expressive behavior. They also are incredibly territorial and will fight anything that invades their habitat. However, the interesting thing is that they don’t need to be in packs to be a strong force in Alaska.
They can easily take down their big prey alone or with a partner, and their success rate is even higher than when they are in packs. That might be a reason why some cubs separate from their family when they grow up, and sometimes they end up establishing their own smaller packs. Even with their hunting skills and having a bad rap in society, Wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare, and when there are attacks, it’s because of rabies. They feared humans because of their experiences with hunters, ranchers, and shepherds. So who’s the bad wolf now?
Unicorns might not exist in real life, but the beautiful Narwhal does, and it’s a beauty to behold. They live in cold Arctic waters, and they are one of two living species of whale in the family Monodontidae with the beluga whale. People are mesmerized by their horns, making them look like a fantasy creature from a medieval book. However, that large tusk is just a protruding canine tooth that projects from the upper jaw’s left side and forms that helix spiral. What’s even more interesting is that its horn keeps growing throughout its life.
Their tusk can reach to be about 4.9 to 10 feet long! It’s completely hollow, but it’s still cumbersome, and it can weigh up to 22 pounds. What’s even more fascinating and rarer is that one in every 500 male narwhals has two tusks when the fight canine also grows through the lip. It is also sporadic to see a female with a tusk too, and only about 15% has it, and it’s smaller than the male one and with a less noticeable spiral. Since they don’t reside in just one place, it’s a bit rare to see them, but you might get lucky if you are in the far south of the Alaska Peninsula and the Commander Islands.
Speaking of interesting sea creatures, we want to talk about the Northern right whale dolphin. These include just one of a handful of dolphin species that do not have a fin on top and have a smooth curving back instead. Their skin is mostly black with some white markings. They have a shorter beak than the most common dolphins and have a straight mouth line. They are not much information on how they reproduce since they are harder to spot, but it is estimated that they reach sexual maturity for males to be around ten years and females around nine years.
Northern right whale dolphins tend to be in larger groups of between 100 to 200 individuals, but they have seen groups of 300. They are mostly in the Pacific Ocean, so the best place to catch them in action is around the Monterey Bay all year long, around the Monterey Submarine Canyon. If you want to get a glimpse of them, the best time of the year to see them is around the summer and fall, and you can catch a whale-watching excursion boat where you might get lucky enough to see them riding alongside the boat.
And finally, let’s talk about this common bird who is not an Apex predator, but like all the animals on this list, it is an integral part of Alaska’s Wildlife. The Willow Ptarmigan, a small bird that is the state bird of Alaska, can be found in many places like Siberia, Scandinavia, and Canada. Their plumage color depends on the season. In the summer, they are mostly brown, but their feathers turn entirely white when winter comes. Although, sometimes, they get some black feathers in their tails. They haven’t changed much since the Pleistocene era in the tundra, where it was also very common to come by.
The most exciting thing about the ptarmigan is their feet. They are covered in tiny white feathers, no matter the season. Nevertheless, they have a purpose, and they are not only for decoration. They serve as a type of snowshoe that helps them walk around the tundra without making much noise. Basically, they keep them protected from the environment. Sometimes they like to hide in burrows in the winter, where, thanks to their white feathers, they are great for camouflage from predators and humans. They are always in flocks, so that you might find them in big groups wandering in the tundra. However, don’t get too close because they are afraid of humans, and they can fly away fast. Do you want to see more majestic animals? Check out animals from Madagascar!