The Arctic Circle Trail is one of the best places in Greenland for observing wildlife. You can learn a little more about each of the animals listed below on the Asimi website. Unfortunately, the site is only in Greenlandic and Danish, but can right-click on a blank section of the page and choose Translate to …. to translate to your language of preference.
Although most animals will move away or keep a wary eye on you if you get too close or make a sudden movement or loud noise, we advise you to stay at least 100m away from them. This is for the animal’s and your own safety.
The most common wildlife species along the trail are:
They may look like bison, but musk oxen are actually much more closely related to goats! They roam freely in the Arctic Circle region, mostly in herds, and are generally not aggressive. However, they may charge if they feel threatened – particularly if they have young calves. If you feel uneasy around musk oxen, locals recommend banging two stones together to scare them off.
Arctic Foxes are generally very skittish and will keep their distance. Note, however, that they may come for your food while you are sleeping so keep it inside your tent and do not feed them under any circumstances.
Unfortunately, it is possible for them to contract the rabies virus, in which case they become much less fearful and will approach humans. In this case, be extremely wary of the animal. Kill it if you can, but avoid getting scratched or bitten. That being said, we are unaware of any actual cases of rabies on the trail.
Greenland is one of only two places in the world where you can see the Arctic Hare. It is a very large hare and, despite being white in colour, quite difficult to spot! They tend to crouch in the bushes or hide behind rocks so you’ll need to keep a sharp eye out to see them.
There are several rare and internationally important bird species in this part of Greenland. We have quite a few protected areas (RAMSAR areas) near the trail, so please respect the birds and do not disturb them.
Common water birds include the Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata), which has a tendency to laugh at you as you pass by, Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). Those you spot flying are likely black ravens (Corvus corax) or one of two types of falcon. On the ground, keep a sharp eye out to spot Ptarmigan (a type of grouse) wearing their summer camouflage, or one of the smaller species like the Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe), common redpolls (Acanthis flammea), or snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis).
A note about Polar Bears
Although the King of the Arctic is not typically found in this part of Greenland, there have been rare instances where one has appeared. It happens so infrequently that we do not consider them a threat to hikers, but check the ACT Alerts and Trail information before setting off, just in case. Do not bring firearms on the trail.