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Ecological Framework of Canada
Arctic Cordillera Ecozone


  1. Thick-billed Murre
  2. Beluga Whale
  3. Northern Fulmar
  4. Hoary Redpoll
  5. Snow Bunting (female in foreground)
  6. Common Ringed Plover
  7. Walrus
  8. Ringed Seal
  9. Common Eider
  10. Black Guillemot
  11. Narwhal
  12. Polar Bear

Land mammals are rare in the Arctic Cordillera. This is due mainly to the sparse plant life, which is the foundation of all mammalian food chains. Arctic Hare, Arctic Fox, Ermine, and the Collared Lemming are among the few species to call the region home. However, their densities and abundance are generally much lower than in arctic habitats endowed with more plant cover. In most cases these animals thrive in pockets of higher plant productivity along moist sheltered streams and coastal areas.

Also favouring these habitats are the few species of songbirds and shorebirds that come to the far north to breed. Most common are Hoary Redpoll, Little Ringed Plover, and Snow Bunting.

This ecozone is mainly devoid of large land mammals, although in coastal areas the occasional Polar Bear strays as far as 100 km inland. For the most part, Polar Bears stay close to the sea, where biological productivity is many times higher than on land. In spring and early summer, Polar Bears take to the water and drifting ice floes in search of Ringed and Bearded Seals, their preferred prey. When the ice breaks up in August, Polar Bears come ashore to feed on mussels, starfish, birds' eggs, and carrion. Though Polar Bears are usually solitary, a beached Bowhead Whale carcass may attract a group of over 40 bears.

Besides Polar Bears, seals, and whales, the regionís unusually productive marine waters support large concentrations of seabirds, which congregate by the thousands. The waters surrounding Bylot Island and within Lancaster Sound support huge breeding colonies of Northern Fulmars, Thick-billed Murres, and Black-legged Kittiwakes.