Halfway between Norway and the North Pole lies Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The islands forming Svalbard have a fairly moderate climate for its arctic location, with temperatures as high as 40'F during the summer and an average of about 5'F during mid-winter, although regular winds from polar and sea air during winter months can cause it to seem cooler.
Svalbard is home to a limited number of birds, mammals and one species of fresh water fish, the Arctic Char. The most prevalent of the land animals is the Svalbard Reindeer. Reindeer, known as Caribou in North America, are found in most arctic climates, but the Svalbard Reindeer is a distinct breed found only on Svalbard. The main distinction between Svalbard Reindeer and others of the species is a social one; Svalbard Reindeer tend to be solitary creatures while Reindeer elsewhere often live in large herds. The reason for this may be the lack of predators on the islands, aside for the regular Polar Bear
no animals pose a real threat to these Reindeer.
The only other permanent land mammal on the island is the Arctic Fox
. The fox appears pure white during the winter months and has a grey or brown coat during warm seasons. The only other hunter on the islands other than the Polar Bear it feeds primarily on small prey such as seabirds, carrion, seal pups and may catch fish beneath the ice.
In the coastal waters or along the shore of Svalbard a number of sea mammals may also appear: the Walrus
, Bearded Seal
or the common Beluga
Whale, a white 16-17 foot long whale that travels in small groups. And, of course, the already mentioned Polar Bear.
While only a small number of different bird species live on Svalbard they make up for this lack of variety with sheer quantity and can number into the millions. The most common is the Little Auk
, a cliff nesting tiny species that can blanket the sky in numbers. Like most birds the ones that live in Svalbard migrate to warmer climates during winter months, but that is not true of one species, the Svalbard Ptarmigan, which stays in the archipelago year round. There is an absence of predators for birds and therefore the Svalbard Ptarmigan is easy for a human to approach.