CFS Alert: Photos 8 - ANIMALS

Earle Smith recalls seeing the following animals at Alert:

Arctic Foxes
Arctic Hares
Arctic Wolves
Arctic Huskies (these animals lived in Alert but stayed outside)

Mauriice Drew remembers the following. " As resident creatures as far north as Alert, there are hares, wolves, muskox, lemmings, and terns in the summer (birds that nested on the ground). In summer there also were mosquitoes, bumble bees, and a few other insects that were blown up north likely against their desire to be there. If there were Polar Bears they drifted up the Lincoln sea on ice packs. Bears could not have survived long at Alert  because there was no food for them, other than what we threw in the garbage. The wolves ate most of that.

Some wolves and all hares had grey/brown fur in summer. They were a scraggly looking mess. But once winter came, their fur turned silver white and with blue/green eyes they were magnificent looking creatures. Lemmings are like mice and burrowed into the ground or wooden crates where they nested. At some point in the summer they would migrate, by the thousands, into the hills and leap off the edge of high points of land to their death! The terns migrated to the northern tip of Ellesmere Island to nest in summer. They were aggressive dive-bombers when humans disturbed them. As soon as the eggs hatched and the chicks were able to fly they were off to the south.

National Geographic has a website with interesting information on Arctic habitats for birds and animals. Although some elk made it as far north as Alert it was unusual to see them. Probably driven by storms that can be mind boggling at times. There is evidence that Ellesmere Island was once a tropical climate"

Butch Whitlaw confirms a polar bear sighting. "In 1968 we had a visit from a polar bear in Alert.  I have a picture of my fist over the bear's track but not a picture of the actual bear.  Bill Burke, Dale Stoker plus a couple of other guys and yours truly tracked it for a few miles with a Bombardier but never got close enough to actually see it.
The picture was taken at the bottom of the hill below hut 53.

We had the dog pack in Alert to keep wolves out of the camp.  Al Hone had the sleeve ripped off his parka by a wolf at the entrance to the mess hall and credited the dog pack for coming to his rescue.

In 1984 when I was SWO and we had a caribou tangled in the antenna wire just west of the base site. The tech chief [name forgotten] led a party to resolve the situation.  Our original intention was to put it out of it's misery by shooting it but the Tech Chief and Military Police Sgt, who first arrived at the site were able to cut the cables and save the animal.  The area is a game preserve and shooting it would have been followed by a ton of explaining and paperwork. I also have several pictures of Arctic Foxes as we treated them like pets and fed them daily"

Jim Troyanek also comments. " The only animals that are there year round are the Arctic hare, fox, wolf and the lemming. The lemming of course, is underground during the long winter.  Summer brings others, namely the muskox, Peary Caribou and the occasional polar bear as well as numerous birds, the arctic tern, the jaeger, the rock ptarmigan and some others that I am not familiar with such as sandpipers and a couple gull species".

Established in 1970, Alert has its own quarry. In order to overcome the encroachment of mud that the spring thaw brings each year, the roads of Alert are re-conditioned each spring with new gravel as needed. All of the station's gravel and sand needs are met from this quarry.  (Photo courtesy  Jim Troyanek)
Mid 1960's:  The ever-present huskies weren't allowed inside the buildings. On many occasions   wolves would come into the camp and kill the pups for food so the mortality rate was very high.  (Photo via Gord Walker)

This cairn, located at Alert, contains the remains of an Arctic Husky dog called Mukluk. The iron plaque reads: “Here lies Mukluk, the Arctic wonder dog, Born ?  Died September 1957 ”. Obviously Mukluk was rather special  because it saved the crew of a downed aircraft in the high Arctic back in the early 1950's. (Photo by Maurice Drew)
1962: Serge Duchaine reflects at the grave of Mukluk. (Photo by Jim Thoreson)

Credits and References:

1) Jim Troyanek <intarsia(at)>
2) Gord Walker  <walker6(at)>
3) Jim Thoreson <jimthoreson(at)>
4)  Maurice Drew  <maurice0404(at)>
5) Alert, Beyond The Inuit Lands. David R. Gray. Borealis Press. Ottawa Ont. 1997
6) Earle Smith - VE6NM <t16ru672(at)>
7) Butch Whitlaw <whitlawb13(at)>

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Oct 10/11