1. Emperor Penguin
The largest and most famous of penguins, emperor penguins live in large colonies in the South Pole which can number in the thousands. Penguins are serially monogamous, meaning they remain faithful to their mates for a limited period of about a year, during which the two are inseparable. Emperor chicks have a gray, downy plumage and a black hood framing a white face. As they grow, their feathers become dense, white around the torso and their wings and head turn completely black save for a golden marking on their throat and beak.
Closely related to weasels, don’t let ermines (also known as stoats) fool you with their cute eyes and diminutive size. They are actually extremely vicious hunters that can take down prey several times their own size. Ermines live in burrows which, rather than dig themselves, they take from the paws of rodents and hares which they kill. Ermine fur changes in length and color between seasons, from a pure white coat in winter to a shorter brown fur in summer.
3. Sea Otter
Sea otters are among the most intelligent animals in the world, showing complex tool usage and item manipulation skills. They also have the densest fur of any animal in the world, with as much as millions of hairs per square inch. Their fur is so dense that water can’t penetrate through it at all, which also helps them float, as air pockets form inside the hair.
The clown-faced birds of the northern seas are just too cute to believe. Puffins form long-lasting bonds with their mates, build their nests together, share every responsibility of parenting, and actually perform an action known as “billing”, wherein they rub their beaks together. In other words, puffins kiss!
5. Harp Seal
The Antarctic harp seals are named so because of the distinctive black markings they develop on their back as they grow, which are said to resemble a harp in shape. As pups, the seals have a long snow-white coat, which they molt several time over the years, becoming gray and black.
6. Canada Lynx
This is no house kitty! Canada lynxes are about twice the size of domestic cats and are closely related to bobcats, with a rather bulkier and hairier build. Canada lynxes are specialized hunters that feed almost exclusively on snowshoe hares, although they have also been known to hunt young deer, sheep and even foxes when hare populations are down. Canada lynxes are born with blue eyes that turn hazel as they grow up.
7. Snowshoe Hare
Named because of its large specialized hind feet which prevent it from sinking into the snow, snowshoe hares are an important part of the ecology of subarctic America, and dwindling populations have been closely associated with decline in predator populations, especially that of the Canada lynx. Snowshoe hares have a coat which is pure white in the winter, and rusty brown in the summer.
8. Arctic Wolf
Like the dingo and the domestic dog, arctic wolves are a subspecies of the gray wolf, living exclusively on the Queen Elizabeth Islands between mainland Canada and Greenland, they feed primarily on muskoxen and hares. As gorgeous as they may appear, they are unafraid of humans and have been known to assault travelers at times.
Not all of the animals of the arctic are feral. Malamutes were brought to America by the Inuit peoples when they crossed the Bering Strait. Malamutes are stockier and more powerful than huskies, having been bred for sledding and carrying freight. They are avid hunters, rarely bark and are extremely popular pets.
10. Arctic Fox
The gorgeous arctic fox resides in large, sprawling tunnels which provide cover and a quick escape from predators. Arctic foxes are typically more social than other fox species and may form packs to increase survivability. Their coat changes from snow-white in the winter to gray-brown in the summer.
11. Polar Bear
Looking at how cute polar bear cubs are, it’s sometimes hard to imagine they grow up to be some of the most efficient killing machines in nature. Polar bears are among the largest bear species, about the same size as the Kodiak bear, with a longer, leaner build that is more suitable for swimming and navigating through the glaciers and the snow. Polar bears are the only bear species that is purely carnivorous, feeding primarily on seals. They hunt by sniffing out seal breathing holes and waiting for seals to emerge, upon which they drag the seals out to land where they cannot swim away.