Climate Change is a Challenge for Narwhals

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The Arctic Ocean is filled with amazing creatures that have the ability to survive in the coldest conditions. However, as the climate warms up and the sea ice melts, the Arctic Ocean can be a dangerous place for many arctic species, including narwhals.

A model of a Narwhal. Flickr Credit: post-postmodern

Narwhals are medium sized whales that live in packs of two to ten individuals. They are best known for the massive ivory tusk, which can grow to 150 cm to 267 cm long! They also happen to be one of the most sensitive Arctic marine mammals to climate change.

The dramatic temperature swings caused by climate change not only lead to sea ice loss but also flash freezing. In some cases, a herd of narwhals will come up for air through tunnels in the ice, only to have the tunnels freeze shut behind them. The narwhals become stranded and are at a higher risk of being hunted by humans for their prized tusk.

Getting trapped in the ice isn’t the only issue narwhals face due to climate change. As the ice continues to melt, human presence increases. This means more hunting and development in the narwhal’s habitat, along with more boat activity as shipping and oil exploration increase.

Currently, narwhals are a species of special concern in Canada and near threatened internationally.

Sources:
http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/cosewic/sr_narwhal_e.pdf
http://www.arkive.org/narwhal/monodon-monoceros/
http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/13704/0

Generously Supported By

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation

A Conservation Partnership With

Churchill Northern Studies Centre

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