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Module 4 • Flora and Fauna: Me and My Habitat!
Teacher Notes 4-4
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Snowshoe Hare
Unlike rabbits, snowshoe hares are born fully furred with eyes open and can walk by the time their
fur is dry. The hare’s summer coat of yellowish to grayish brown is replaced by white pelage in winter.
The Arctic hare is active year-round, feeding on Arctic willow, crowberry, meat, and seaweed. The
animal’s huge feet act as snowshoes to enable quick escapes on top of the snow.
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Sea Otters
Sea Otters are playful animals that spend almost all their time in the sea. They eat, sleep, and even
have their babies in the water. In the daytime, sea otters float on their backs eating abalone, their
favorite food. To open the abalone shell, they place a small rock on their chest and smash the shell
against it. Sea otters are one of the few mammals, beside humans, that use tools. They will use
strands of kelp to tie themselves into the kelp beds for a secure night’s sleep. They love to frolic with
other otters and seals. Unlike seals and walrus, sea otters have no blubber to keep them warm in the
cold arctic waters. Air trapped in their fur keeps them warm and buoyant. Oil spills can damage this
fine fur and cause the otter to get very cold and die. That is why volunteers cleaned the sea otters so
carefully after the oil spills in Alaska.
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Lemming
Lemmings are small mouse-like animals that live in the tundra. In summer they are brown, but in win-
ter they are all white. Their white coats help them to hide from the snowy owl and other predators
who depend upon them for food in winter. They have rounded bodies with long tails, and have teeth
for eating seeds, grains, and other plant material, as well as insects. Lemmings make simple burrows
in the tundra during the summer and in the winter, they hide from the coldest weather in shallow
burrows in the snow. Most of them do not hibernate, but stay active all winter, tunneling through
the space that forms between soil and snow in search of vegetation. Their short appendages (ears,
legs, tail) help reduce heat loss, and their fur grows thicker in winter.
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Muskox
Muskox look a lot like bison, but have wool like sheep. They are called omingmak, meaning the ani-
mal with skin like a beard, because of the long guard hair that hangs nearly to the ground. Muskox
have not changed much since the ice age and are perfectly adapted to live in their harsh Arctic envi-
ronment. Stocky and with a very short tail, muskox have cloven hooves, all four of which are the
same size. Muskox underwool—called qiviut—is considered the softest and warmest in the world.
Muskox roam in herds of ten to twenty individuals. When they are threatened, they form a circle
around their young to protect them. Muskox have been known to scoop up wolves with their horns,
hurl them into the air and then stomp them under hoof, but muskox are generally peaceful animals
who eat only plants. Their name comes from the musky smell of their urine, which is especially strong
in mating season. Muskox usually bear one calf every two years.
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© NOMADS Online Classroom Expeditions GoNorth! Chukotka 2007 Curriculum 48
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