Animals that live in the Arctic (either full time or seasonally) are adapted to extreme conditions. Many animals who overwinter in the Arctic (like the Arctic fox and the ermine) have a coat that thickens and changes color to white during the winter as camouflage in the snow
Arctic wolves are of the largest of the subspecies of the gray wolf. Their bodies are heavier set and are not as tall and lanky looking as some other subspecies. Arctic wolves have adapted very well to the icy environment where they live. They have white fur, which allows them to blend into their snowy surroundings. To help reduce heat loss, they have more-rounded ears, a shorter muzzle and shorter legs than other gray wolf subspecies. They also have hair between the pads of their feet and long, thick fur to keep them warm in temperatures that can drop to minus 70° Fahrenheit. Arctic wolves live primarily in the Arctic, the region located above 67° north latitude. The land is covered with snow and ice for most of the year.
The Arctic Fox lives in some of the most frigid extremes on the planet. The arctic fox is an incredibly hardy animal that can survive frigid Arctic temperatures as low as –58°F (-50°C) in the treeless lands where it makes its home. It has furry soles, short ears, and a short muzzle—all-important adaptations to the chilly clime. Arctic foxes live in burrows, and in a blizzard they may tunnel into the snow to create shelter. Arctic foxes have beautiful white (sometimes blue-gray) coats that act as very effective winter camouflage. The natural hues allow the animal to blend into the tundra’s ubiquitous snow and ice.
Snow monkeys live in large troops that can contain more than 500 animals. Average group size, however, falls between 40 and 200 individuals. Females usually run the show, and remain with the same group for life. Young males eventually outgrow their mothers’ troops and join up with different ones. Forest dwellers, snow monkeys spend time both on the ground and in the trees. Their home ranges are small, usually less than two square miles. When not foraging, feeding, or resting, they spend lots of time grooming one another. Snow monkeys are quick learners, and individuals have been known to invent new behavior patterns, like washing dirt off sweet potatoes.
At the extreme northern margins of the arctic tundra lives the Snowy Owl, the northernmost, heaviest, and most distinctively marked owl of North America. The Snowy Owl is a large, diurnal white Owl that has a rounded head, yellow eyes and black bill. The feet are heavily feathered. A distinctive white Owl, their overall plumage is variably barred or speckled with thin, black, horizontal bars or spots. Females and juveniles are more heavily marked than males – adult males may be almost pure white, although they have up to three tail bands. Adult females are distinctly barred throughout, and have from four to six tail bands. Immatures are very heavily barred throughout, and dark spotting may codominate or dominate the overall plumage. Intensity of dark spotting varies with the sex of the immatures, females being the darkest. Juveniles are uniformly brown with scattered white tips of down.
The snow leopard, known for its beautiful, thick fur, has a white, yellowish or soft gray coat with ringed spots of black on brown. The markings help camouflage it from prey. With their thick coats, heavy fur-lined tails and paws covered with fur, snow leopards are perfectly adapted to the cold and dry habitats in which they live. Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) live in the high mountains of Central Asia from Afghanistan to China, and from Russia to Bhutan, and it is thought that between 3,500 – 7,000 remain in the wild. More precise estimates are difficult with such a cryptic animal.