Wandering through the most hostile habitat, searching for food with its pack; the leader guides the rest to a prey, and they execute a planned attack. With natural shield of a thick white coat, it saves itself from the blistering cold, to know more about the arctic wolf, read on the following facts being told …
Did you know?
The arctic wolves are the most mysterious subspecies of the gray wolves. They live in complete darkness for 5 continuous months in a year, during winters. Due to this, most of their activities still remain a mystery to the world.
Ever since the organic evolution, mankind has proved consistently that there is no mystery that cannot be solved by them. However, contrary to this statement is the life of an arctic wolf, that continues to mystify researchers till date. Wolves are considered to be a symbol of strength and unity. And I think that the credit for this symbolism goes to the arctic wolf. Why? Well, because this wonderful creature has done what seems impossible for us to do, that is to survive in the arctic region.
- Range & Habitat
- Physical Traits
- Behavioral Traits
- Family Life
- Diet & Hunting
- Our Contribution
- Learning Lessons
|Scientific Name||Canis lupus arctos|
|Alternate Names||White wolf, Polar wolf|
|Lifespan||7-10 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity.|
|Habitat Range||Northern parts of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland.|
|Pack Size||2 – 7 on an average, can be as much as 30 as well.|
|Litter||2 – 4 pups|
|IUCN Conservation Status||Least Concern|
|Threat||Human activities, Polar bears, Other wolves|
Where Will You Find the Mysterious Arctic Wolf?
The beautiful white wolf, or the arctic wolf, lives in the most uncongenial environment of the world — the high arctic. The latitudinal range of their natural habitat extends from 70°N and higher. However, because they travel miles and miles to look for food, they have also been found in the lower latitude of 60°N. These places include, the Northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark. The climatic conditions in the arctic are extremely harsh with sub-zero temperature. The area is covered with snow most of the time with the temperature reading that can go as low as – 70°F! The arctic wolf endures all this, and more. They also live in complete darkness for 5 months in the arctic, with no food consumption at all. The summers is when the snow melts for a brief period; however, the temperature continues to be below the freezing point, even then.
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They Look Beautiful, so that They can Survive Beautifully!
During winters, an additional layer of coat grows on the arctic wolf’s body, to keep it warm.
They have a thick white fur that not only keeps them warm, but also helps them camouflage in the snow while hunting. This natural coat allows them to sleep comfortably even when the temperature is “20 below”, according to Animal Planet. Another interesting fact about their fur is that it changes according to the seasons. During winters, there are two layers of fur, the outer coat consisting of coarse, guard fur, and an inner undercoat which is comparatively soft. During spring, the outer layer molts and a short summer coat grows inside, which ultimately develops into a coarse winter coat during autumn, which can have hair measuring as long as 5 inches!
It is believed that wolves travel miles and miles for hunting, depending upon their ability to hear even the subtlest sound waves, which are beyond the grasp of human ears.
Like all wolves, even the arctic wolves have highly developed senses, hearing being their keenest one. Their ears are more rounded and smaller than other wolves to protect it from the cold climate. They also have a keen eyesight with brown irises. The dark-colored iris gives them protection from the glary white lands of the arctic. As compared to other wolves, arctic wolves also have shorter nose; however, that doesn’t affect their keen sense of smell, but only helps in managing the body heat.
The arctic wolf is comparatively shorter and heavy in its structure as compared to other wolves. This structure aids its survival in the freezing climate in the arctic wild.
The males are heavier than the females, and can weigh up to 175 lbs. On an average, they are about 3 feet tall, and their length varies in between 3 – 5 feet measuring from the nose till the tail. The legs of the arctic wolf are shorter to keep them closer to the ground so that they can manage their body temperature. Their feet are padded with a thick layer of hair in between so that they can stay warm. A wolf doesn’t walk on its entire foot sole, in fact, it walks on its toes. It has four toes on the hind feet, and 5 toes on the front feet. Not only this, wolves are also swimmers and have webbed toes to aid this activity. As compared to other wolves, they also have a shorter snout. All these physical features help them become successful survivors in the barren white lands of arctic.
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Arctic Wolves Don’t Behave like Monsters!
Wolves and dogs belong to the same family, Canidae, and they have a lot of similar characteristics. In fact, dogs are descendants of the wolves!
You think of wolves, and the first image that comes to your mind is a ferocious werewolf like structure howling at the moon! While it is true that all wolves, including the arctic wolves, do howl; they are not actually the monsters that they are perceived to be. Yes, they hunt and they kill animals, but that is only for the purpose of survival. They are social creatures who live in packs and have an order of responsibilities. They display emotions through their body language and sound variations; very similar to that of dogs! They lick, they wag, they lie on their backs to show respect to the leader of the pack, they howl to inform the rest of the pack about their individual whereabouts, or to give warnings, or when they mark a territory. They show their teeth and snarl when they are upset. Their ears, brows, eyes, mouth, and tail can also tell you about their mood. When they are happy, their ears and tail will be slightly raised, they will pant, drop their jaws down, raise their brows, and slightly wag their tail. Their forehead will be smooth and eyes will be wide. If they are angry, the ears will raise, their forehead will wrinkle, their tail will be raised out, while their teeth being absolutely exposed with rage. Their pack is their family, and no family can run smoothly without emotions!
Mating, Reproduction, and Responsibilities
The arctic wolves reproduce lesser pups as compared to the gray wolves, this is because of the scarcity of food in the arctic region. Also, it becomes difficult for the pups to survive till they are able to grow completely because the polar bear tends to hunt them for food. Sad!
The males reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 years, and the females at the age of 2 years. Each and every pack consists of an alpha male and an alpha female; both of them being mates. These two are the leaders of the pack and are respected by the rest of the members. Also, it is only the alpha male and female that are allowed to breed. The breeding season begins in the month of March and the female delivers the pups after approximately 63 days of gestation period. When the female is pregnant, she leaves the pack and looks for another cave, till the pups are born. Because of the permafrost ground in the arctic, it is difficult to dig a new cave, so she has to rely on the existing outcrops and depressions to raise her pups. She gives birth to about 2-4 pups on an average; however, there could be as many as 12! The newborns weigh less than a pound, and are blind and deaf; they are completely dependent on their mother for food and warmth. The female is in turn, dependent on the male to bring her food from the hunt. The pups wean after 5 weeks, which is the time when they are fed with the regurgitated meat, and the female returns back to the pack along with the pups. They become independent hunters once they are a year old. Till then the entire pack takes care of the pups.
The Family Life of White Wolves
Like all wolves, the arctic wolves also stay in packs, with each member having an order (hierarchy). The alpha male and female are the leading and breeding couple, followed by the beta, which come second in order. The scapegoat of the pack is known as the omega wolf, which has the lowest rank in the pack.
There can be 2-20 members in a pack, or more; leaded by the alpha male and female, both being treated as equals. The other pack members mostly include grown offspring of the leading mates. Each and every pack member pays respect to the alpha duo. Also, the alpha wolves will hold their tail higher than the rest. The beta male and female will be the next in hierarchy. They are also the ones who challenge the alphas for their position. The rest of the members are the subordinates, and holding the lowest rank in the pack is the omega wolf, which can either be a male or a female. The rest of the pack members dominate over the omega wolf in every way. However, experts believe that it is important for a pack to have an omega wolf so that all the negative behavior is directed towards it. This helps in maintaining the unity and harmony of the pack. The other pack members pay respect to the dominant wolves by lying on their backs. Experts have observed the juvenile wolves cringe in front the dominant members. All the members of the pack have a hierarchy and status; however, this status changes when the dominant wolves grow weak due to aging, and the other wolves take a higher status in the pack. As mentioned earlier, only the alpha male and female are allowed to breed. Other wolves who do so, have to leave the pack as a consequence. Many young male wolves leave their pack and become a lone wolf looking for a potential mate and a new territory to start their own packs. Once an unclaimed territory is found, the wolf marks it with its scent (urine), and also howls, according to some experts. A single pack can mark a territory of more than 1,000 square miles.
The Family that Eats Together Stays Together!
The body temperature of the arctic wolf can rise up to 102° while running. This is a natural activity to keep them warm and active to avoid the cold from being a hindrance for hunting.
The climatic conditions of the arctic do not support excessive vegetation, which means that there are limited numbers of herbivores on which they can prey. Their diet includes animals like caribou, musk ox, lemmings, arctic hares, seals, snow geese, and other birds found in the arctic. Arctic wolves hunt in packs, relying on co-operation and teamwork from all the members, especially when they are hunting a large prey, like the caribou. One single arctic wolf will prove to be defenseless in front of huge preys like the caribou or musk ox, which have a huge body and powerful hind legs that can injure the wolf gravely. However, when the wolves hunt together, they chase their prey by entering their herd and scattering the animals all over. They try to separate the young and weak animals from the strong ones because they are easier to catch, and as soon as they get a chance, they attack on the weakling with a fatal bite on the neck. Many wolves pounce on the animal at the same time, diminishing any chance to escape. However, luck doesn’t favor the wolf pack every time, and the success rate is only 10 percent!
Arctic wolves travel extremely long distances in search of food, more than 1000 square miles! The pack members follow the leader’s tracks in the snow. Because they work so hard to find a meal, they value each and every bit of it and consume everything, right from the fur to the bones! They can stay without food for months, but when they finally get to eat, they can eat up almost 20 percent of their body weight worth of meat in a single sitting! They don’t chew their food, but swallow huge chunks of it.
How Can We Help them Flourish?
The greatest threat of the arctic wolf is nobody else but we humans! Industrialization has led to massive climate change which has decreased food supply in the arctic. Humans also hunt arctic wolves for its fur, or just for the fun of it!
The conservation status of the arctic wolf comes in the category of least concerned; however, this doesn’t mean that they are flourishing! Although we stay away from their habitat, our activities are still a threat to their existence. We all are aware about the climate changes due to global warming, which has affected the arctic, as well. This change has caused depletion in the number of herbivores like caribou, musk ox, and arctic hares due to lack of food. This is the reason why the arctic wolves live only half of their actual lifespan in the wild. You can contribute your own bit to help them live their entire lifespan by not adding to the global warming. Go eco-friendly – – recycle, save water, paper, and electricity, and encourage your near and dear ones to do the same. Spread the awareness, and your efforts will give this shy creature a chance to survive in the harsh environment of the arctic.
What Do the Arctic Wolves Teach Us?
“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be – the mythological epitome of a savage, ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than the reflected image of ourself.” – Farley Mowat, Writer of the book Never Cry Wolf, which was based on his experience in the arctic.
- Adapt and blend with the environment, and you will discover your new strengths.
- Unity, teamwork, and planning is necessary for overcoming difficulties.
- Your strength lies in your approach, not in your appearance.
- Arctic wolves kill for survival and food, unlike, we humans who kill just for the fun of it!
- Be patient and alert, if there is no food today, tomorrow will be a feast!
- Arctic wolves are not a threat to us humans, wouldn’t it be great if we also, pose no threat to them?
Many researchers have ventured into the hostile arctic, in an attempt to examine the lives of these white mysterious creatures, more closely. Many scientists have spent majority of their career , and it is their efforts due to which we are able to enlist these facts about the arctic wolves. One such researcher who has massively contributed this species closer to the human world, is scientist and wolf expert L. David Mech, who has published various books describing the lives of wolves. His book, The Arctic Wolf: Ten Years with the Pack is one of the best sources of information on the life of the arctic wolves. Most of the arctic wolves in the wild have never encountered a human being. This is the reason why Mech was able to become friends with a wolf pack, and successfully observed their life closely for 10 long years. Wolves are shy creatures and they live in a world which is completely isolated and different from ours; therefore, it is my humble request to help them thrive, so that this species suffers from no survival threats whatsoever!