Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos)
Body and Skeletal Structure:
Arctic wolves can vary in size, but these wolves usually range from being 2 to about 6 ft long (~61-183 cm), and generally weigh from 55 to about 155 lbs (~25-70 kg). Males do tend to be larger than the females though.
Fun Fact: Arctic wolves are smaller in size than gray wolves, but still tend to be a bit bulkier than them.
Their fur is typically white colored (that helps them camouflage into their usually snowy environment), but can also have shades of grey (or brown) mixed into it. Like other wolves, they have two layers of fur. The outer layer is composed of coarse guard hairs while below it, a soft undercoat is present. Their fur tends to grow thicker during the colder, winter months.
Fun Fact: Arctic wolves tend to have brown irises, unlike most other wolves that have yellow to amber eyes.
Arctic wolves are carnivorous and usually prefer to eat large hoofed animals such as deer, elk, moose, caribou and musk oxen . However, they do hunt smaller animals like arctic hares, lemmings and other rodents.
Most Arctic wolves live to be from about 7 to 13 years old.
Mating Season: January – March
Gestation Period: About 63 days
Litter Size: 2-3 pups
Communication and Behavior:
Arctic wolves are typically nocturnal (and semi-crepuscular), intelligent, kind, and sociable creatures that live in groups called packs. Sometimes these wolves will hunt with the pack, but sometimes hunt alone when catching small animals. The amount of wolves in a pack can vary depending on available prey populations, but they usually consist of 5-8 members. Packs are led by the alpha male and/or female. The alpha pairs are usually the biological parents of the pack, since it usually consists of their offspring, and they tend to form pair-bonds for life. When raising their young, they tend to use rocky outcroppings, caves, or even shallow depressions as dens. They are cared for by the pack until they are about 10 months old (since that’s usually when they can hunt on their own). Once these wolves are older, some may leave the pack to simply join others, or to breed. Red wolves can also be highly territorial and will guard their territory from intrusion from other packs in the area.
Communication allows these wolves to care for and feed their young, defend their territory, bring down large prey successfully, and more. Wolves have a complex communication system ranging from barks and whines to growls and howls. They also communicate through body language and scent marking. Most of the time, communication is used to reinforce the social hierarchy of the pack.
- When a wolf wants show its submissiveness to another, it will usually crouch, whimper, tuck its tail in, lick the other wolf’s mouth, or roll over on its back.
- When a wolf is challenging another, it’ll usually growl or lay its ears back on its head.
- When a wolf is playful, it tends to “dance” and bow.
- When a wolf wants to signal a warning, it’ll typically bark.
- When a wolf wants to communicate from a long distance, pull the pack back together, or to warn strangers away, the wolf will typically howl.
Fun Fact: The lowest ranking wolf of the pack is called the omega.
Habitat and Range:
Arctic wolves tend to reside in grassy plains or tundra forests located around the Arctic Circle. They mainly inhabit Northern Canada, Alaska and parts of Greenland, Iceland, and Northern Europe.
Although Arctic wolf populations are relatively stable, they are still threatened by habitat loss, climate change, trapping, shooting, poisoning, and more.