A Look into Arctic Wolves

October 01, 2019 3 min read

A Look into Arctic Wolves

The Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos) is a gray wolf (Canis lupus) subspecies. Northern Canada and Alaska, parts of Greenland and Iceland and Northern Europe, are primarily inhabited by Arctic wolves. The habitat of the Arctic wolf is the Arctic tundra, where the wolf lives in peace because of human isolation of the region. The Arctic wolf’s lifespan is in the wild for 7 to 10 years and in captivity for up to 20 years. The length of Arctic wolves varies between 1 and 1,8 meters (40 to 70 inches) including the tail. The heights of their chest differ between 63 and 79 centimeters (25 to 31 inches). They weigh between 45 and 70 kg (100 to 155 pounds). The Arctic wolf is well suited for living in cold settings.

They have shorter and more rounded ears, a shorter muzzle, and shorter legs than other gray wolf subspecies to assist decrease heat loss. There are two dense layers of fur in Arctic wolves. As the winter months come along, the exterior layer gets thicker. They help to create a waterproof barrier for the skin first layer. As a result, even when it is bitter cold, their body temperature can remain warm enough. Throughout the year, Arctic wolves have almost white fur that enables them to blend in with their snowy environments.

They have fur on the hands to isolate them from snow and ice and to ensure a better grip on slippery surfaces. They have also learned how to survive on fat stored in the body rather than needing food as often as other wolf species do. Arctic wolves have vision, hearing, and smell senses. Arctic wolves live up to about twenty in packs of only a few members.

Wolf packs contain an extremely complicated social order, and each pack has a dominant male and female. Wolves use body language to express pack laws, and the number one rule says the pack comprises leaders and followers. The pack is in charge of the dominant male and female. They carry their tails high and tall to transmit dominance. Less dominant wolves display submissive conduct by holding down their tails and lowering their bodies at the higher-ranking wolves frequently. The pack has a complicated social hierarchy maintained by a multitude of vocalizations, body postures, and the marking of scents.

Like all wolves, Arctic wolves are hunting in packs.

Arctic wolves can travel for lengthy periods of time on hunting or traveling within their land at about 8 kilometers (5 miles per hour). During winter hunts, a wolf pack can spend 8-10 hours a day moving and can cover 65 kilometers (40 miles) a day. A small prey density in the Arctic needs that these wolves have over 2,600 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) of territory. The Arctic wolf’s primary prey is musk oxen and arctic hare, but caribou, ptarmigan, lemmings, seals, nesting birds and even Arctic foxes will also be eaten. Arctic wolf has 42 sharp teeth filled with powerful jaws intended to tear flesh and crush bones. They can consume at one moment over 9 kilograms of meat (20 pounds).

As with most wolf species, only the alpha male and the beta female can mate. Arctic Wolves often use rock outcroppings, caves or even shallow depressions as dens instead because of the Arctic permafrost soil and the difficulty it presents in building dens. The pregnant female’s gestation period is 53 to 61 days. In late May to early June, the mom gives birth to 2 or 3 pups. The pups leave the den after 3-6 weeks and start investigating their surroundings, staying close to the den’s safety. The pups are big enough to move and hunt with the pack by fall.

Arctic wolves are secure from predators because they live in severe circumstances where few other mammals can survive, but sometimes they are prey to polar bears. Other Arctic wolves sometimes present a danger when rival packs kill for food, land, or matching rights during a battle. Living in the Arctic Circle, the Arctic wolf is in complete darkness spending five out of twelve months. An absence of fear towards humans is one of the few behavioral distinctions between Arctic wolves and other gray wolves. The Arctic wolf was first defined by British Zoologist R. I. Pocock as a separate subspecies from Melville Island in 1935, after examining a single skull. Thanks to its isolation, like its southern relatives, the Arctic wolf is not threatened with hunting and habitat destruction. In reality, the Arctic wolf is the only non-threatening sub-species of the wolf.


 Written by James Miranda

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