Dominated by ice and rock, only about 15% of the park area provides a good habitat for terrestrial mammals, and most of those are small. Artic hare and various varieties of lemmings are the most common prey animals in the park. They are hunted by small predators like the artic fox, ermine, and the occasional wolf and raptor.
The most common animals found in the park are the marine mammals; these include varieties of seal, whales and Polar Bears. While the whales are only found in the fiords and the surrounding waters, the seals and Polar bears can be found on shore during the times that sea ice is absent or thin, normally late June to November. As the icepack firms up the Polar Bears follow the seals, their main source of food, off shore. Polar Bear cubs are born in on-shore dens in late January, where they remain with their mothers until late March when they join the males on the ice pack hunting seals.
The Nunavut Government recommends that you avoid areas frequented by Polar Bears unless accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. In the winter Polar Bears are found on the sea ice, near open water and thin ice where they find their main source of food, seals. In summer they normally travel within a kilometer or two of the coast line, hunting birds, eggs and small mammals and scavenging almost anything from carcasses to human garbage. Den areas are to be avoided in general, but particularly in January through March when cubs may be present.
If an unexpected encounter does occur, the Nunavut Government recommends carefully evaluating the situation before taking well considered actions. This requires some prior thought and an understanding of Polar Bear behavior. Polar Bears are a naturally curious animal and will investigate unidentified situations. If you encounter a curious bear, help the bear identify you as a human by talking in low tones and moving slowly upwind of the bear so it can get your scent. Move slowly away from the bear in a group. Never run, it prompts the bear into hunting mode and you will never be able to outrun a Polar Bear.
If a Polar Bear is surprised at close quarters or acts agitated, slowly move away and make no sudden movements. Do not make or maintain eye contact. Be prepared to use deterrents such as noise makers, air horns, or bear bangers. Pepper spray may be effective, but the Nunavut Government warns that it has not been completely tested and does not work well when cold. It also notes that these deterrents are available in only limited quantities in Nunavut and recommends that they are bought before traveling to the area.
Finally, if an attack appears to be immanent, keep together as a group making lots of noise. Be prepared to use deterrents and finally, be prepared to fight with what ever weapons are at hand. Carrying of and using firearms is strictly regulated so contact the Nunavut Government before bringing any into the territory. Report any attacks immediately, so other people in the area can be warned.
The Nunavut people revere and respect the Polar Bear as a fellow inhabitant of their land. They don’t want your potential encounter with these large hunters to cause you or the Polar Bear any harm or upset.