Consisting of a harsh and cold terrain and climate, few species of wildlife are found in Greenland. However, the animals found in the region are very unusual and a treasure to witness in their natural habitat. Many people decide to take a Greenland tour specifically for the unique wildlife opportunities. In all, eighty-four species of birds regularly visit the area, and in the high Arctic, this number reduces to forty-seven. A limited thirteen species of mammals inhabit the island, and only six of these are land animals: lemming, ermine, Arctic hare, wolf, Arctic fox, and musk ox. The other seven – polar bear, narwhale, ringed seal, bearded seal, bow whale, hooded seal, and walrus – are marine mammals living on the ice and in the sea.
The most dominant “wildlife” seen in Greenland are the dogs kept in the towns by people needing dogsled teams to get around in winter. These animals are not domesticated pets as some may presume, but rather are very territorial and protective of their homes. During a tour of Greenland you are also likely to come across musk oxen. These large mammals may seem docile from afar, but the oxen are temperamental creatures and have been known to charge with little warning. For this reason in the Kangerlussuaq area, Norwegian wildlife authorities have set a 400-meter danger zone around the musk oxen. Polar bears are also wild animals that should be treated with great caution, however the likelihood of coming across one is extremely rare. The polar bear is mainly a seal hunter, residing predominantly along the eastern coasts where few settlements are found. For the most part, polar bears live on the ice, and can be spotted annually drifting down to the southern tip of Greenland on a broken off ice shelf. To view a polar bear, you should make special arrangements during your Greenland tour to visit the north or in the east at a particular time of year. But the chances of spotting these elusive and rare animals is exceptional. Whale watching is a popular option. Some seasons offer better opportunities than others to witness these large marine mammals.