This article discusses how warming is bringing new diseases to Arctic wildlife? Rapid warming and vanishing sea ice in the Arctic has enabled new species, from humpback whales to white-tailed deer, to spread northward. Scientists are increasingly concerned that some of these new arrivals may be bringing dangerous pathogens that could disrupt the region’s fragile ecosystems.
During the last week of September, Inuit residents in the community of Arviat on the northwest coast of Hudson Bay were surprised to see a mysterious whale following a small boat heading back to the village. The whale was at least twice the size of the 15- to 20-foot-long beluga whales that are traditionally seen in this part of the world.
Based on the photos taken, scientists concluded that the whale was a humpback, the first ever seen in that part of Hudson Bay, and one of a handful that have recently been spotted in the North American Arctic.
Humpbacks are not the only marine mammals that have been expanding their range northward. Most notably, as sea ice melts, ice-avoiding killer whales have been moving deeper into the Arctic Ocean, hunting and killing both narwhal and beluga whales. Other whale species — including minke, bottlenose, fin, and sperm whales — are also making their way north as the Arctic heats up. At the same time, on land, grizzly bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, and other animals and birds have been expanding their range into the warming boreal forest and Arctic tundra.