Narwhals are arguably the most iconic living marine mammal, largely due to the large tusk on its head. There is a lot of mystery around narwhals, likely because they have lived in relative isolation in the Arctic waters. However, narwhals may not be as dangerous as you may think.
Narwhals are not a major threat to humans. There are no modern records of human casualties from encounters with narwhals. Interestingly, the main use of their tusk is not for fighting. Narwhals are not as dangerous as you may have first thought!
Keep on reading to find out how much of a threat a narwhal is to humans and learn more about their impressive tusk.
Are Narwhals Friendly or Dangerous to Humans?
Narwhals are unlikely to be aggressive or dangerous to humans. However, they are not particularly friendly, either. There has been some research into the response of narwhals to humans in regard to fishing/hunting activity.
Narwhals entangled in nets in Greenland have been recorded to use a lot more energy than it normally would in order to escape. They do not stay around to fight1 (source: T. M. Williams, et al, Science, Vol 358, Issue 6368, pp. 1328-1331, 2017).
There have been no modern reports of a human dying from an encounter with a narwhal. Narwhals do not regularly kill humans. Theoretically, it may be possible for a narwhal to injure or even kill a human, but this would be a highly unlikely circumstance.
Do Narwhals Eat Humans?
No, narwhals do not eat humans. They have a specialized and relatively restricted diet. Usually, narwhals feed on various teleost fish such as the Greenland Halibut and the Arctic Cod. Narwhals also eat invertebrates such as squid, cuttlefish, and shrimp. These are much smaller than humans.
Also, eating humans would not be in favour of their feeding technique. Narwhals are most often observed feeding in a downward motion, so they can get close to their prey and use a suction force to eat2 (source: Seaworld).
Can A Narwhal Sound Kill You?
Narwhals use sound to communicate with each other. Other marine mammals, such as sperm whales, use a similar technique of “clicking” to communicate over very long distances. The sound can be very loud, at about 236 decibels, which could damage a human’s eardrums if they are close enough.
There are some claims of how this could injure a human’s organs and possibly lead to death3 (source: J. Nestor, via Long Now Foundation), however, this has not been recorded in narwhals.
Do Narwhals Kill With Their Horns?
No, Narwhals do not kill with their horns (known as tusks). However, narwhals have been observed tapping and stunning their prey (the Arctic cod) to make it easier to catch them4 (sources: WWF and The Society for Marine Mammalogy).
Narwhals are of little threat to humans, it’s actually vice versa. Humans are a bigger threat to narwhals as they can be the target of commercial hunting5 (source: L. Wittig, Lars, Meta population modelling of narwhals in East Canada and West Greenland, 2017).
How Big Is A Narwhal Compared To A Human?
Mature narwhals reach lengths of 13 to 18 feet (3.95 to 5.5 meters), with an average weight of 1,760 to 3530 pounds (800 to 1600 kilograms). This means that adult narwhals are at least three times the length of the average American adult human (5 ft 9 inches), and at least four times the weight of the average American adult human (approximately 200 pounds)6 (source: Healthline).