It is somewhat remarkable to find the far north inhabited by large grazing animals. The muskox (Ovibos moschatus), one of the hardiest animals known, formerly ranged the Arctic from the tree line to the north part of Ellesmere Island. It was estimated that less than 500 remained on the mainland and perhaps 12,000 on the islands. The Barren Ground caribou (Rangifer arcticus) is the most important game mammal of the mainland tundra area. The caribou of the northern islands are smaller and apparently intergrade with the polar caribou (R. pearyi) found on Ellesmere Island. The Dominion Government has introduced the reindeer (Rangifer rangifer) into the western mainland area. Carnivorous animals of the region include the polar bear (Thalarctos maritimus), the arctic wolf (Canistundrarum), the white fox (Alopex lagopus) and the arctic weasel (Mustela arctica). The arctic hare (Lepus arcticus), the brown lemming (Lemmus trimucronatus),' the white lemming (Decrostonyx groenlandicus), Parry ground squirrel (Citellus parryii) and various meadow mice (Microtus sp.) also inhabit the Barren Ground. Sea life is important in the Arctic Archipelago, the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), the white whale (Delphinapterus leucas) and the narwhal (Monodon monoceras) were the subject of a short-lived whaling industry and are still taken by the Eskimos. The ringed seal (Phoca hispida), harp seal (Phoca groenlandica) and the bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) are the most common seals, while the Atlantic walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) ranges north to Barrow Strait and Lancaster Sound. The most common food fish along the Arctic coast and islands is the Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus). Whitefish (Coregonus), lake trout (Cristivomer namaycush), grayling (Thymallus signifer) and pike (Esox lucius) are found in the mainland lakes.
While not by any means including all the birds to be seen in the Arctic the following are typical. Willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) and rock ptarmigan (L. rupestris) and the only feathered game available in winter. Eider ducks (Somateria spp.) nest throughout the tundra region. The Lapland longspur (Calcarius lapponicus), snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) and the redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni and A. linaria) are representative Arctic sparrows. Common birds of prey are the snowy owl (Nyctea nyctea) and the gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus).