The Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), also known as the Melville Island wolf is a possible subspecies of gray wolf native to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, from Melville Island to Ellesmere Island. It is a medium-sized subspecies, distinguished from the northwestern wolf by its smaller size, its whiter coloration, its narrower braincase, and larger carnassials. Since 1930, there has been a progressive reduction in size in Arctic wolf skulls, which is likely the result of wolf-dog hybridization.
Arctic wolf as stated above, is the inhabitant of Canadian arctic, northern areas of Greenland, and are known occupy some parts of Alaska in the United States. These wolves bear a range of its habitat 70° North latitude and higher. They are believed to have appeared in North America some two million years before. Whenever arctic wolves find a den, they make one or two chambers for raising young and for food. Arctic wolves can be found in the original range of their habitats as there are no real threats from humans. Because of the fact that they have tough and remote habitats, a handful of scientists have successfully ventured while going through the long dark winter. Some of these species can be found in northern Alberta in the Wood Buffalo National Park, or at 60 degree latitude of Canada. One of these wolves is also sighted as far south as northern Minnesota. Arctic wolves often disperse straight-line distances of more than 550 miles. Most, if not all, arctic wolves are white as you can see from the pictures. Consequently, not many facts have come to the fore.
Thanks to its isolation, the arctic wolf is not threatened by hunting and habitat destruction like its southern relatives. In fact, the arctic wolf is the only sub-species of wolf that is not threatened.
Arctic wolves are smaller than grey wolves, They also have smaller ears and shorter muzzles to retain body heat.
Length: about 1-1.8m, including tail.
The wolf lives mainly on muskox, Arctic hares and caribou (Elk).
As the permafrost (permanently frozen ground) prevents the Arctic wolf from digging a den, they typically live in rocky outcrops or caves. Each year the mother wolf gives birth to two or three pups.
What are the main threats?
Unlike other species of wolf, the Arctic wolf rarely comes into contact with human so does not face the threat of hunting or persecution. However, the greatest threat to the Arctic wolf is climate change. Extreme weather variations in recent years have made it difficult for populations of muskox and Arctic hares to find food, and this has caused a decline in numbers. In turn, this has reduced the traditional food supply of the Arctic wolf.
Industrial development also poses a threat to the wolf, as an increasing number of mines, roads and pipelines encroach on the wolf’s territory, and interrupt its food supply.
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Arctic regions of North America and Greenland mostly as shown in the maps below.
- Wolves and Elks have been coexisting for 10,000 years. The problems really stem from people, who are contributing to habitat degradation and forest fire suppression.” Studies show that wolves play vital roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems, and could even help stave off some of the effects of climate change.
- Without wolves and other large predators, ecosystems can go haywire. A 2001 study (PDF) found that when wolves went extinct in Yellowstone, for example, the moose population ballooned to five times its normal size and demolished woody vegetation where birds nested. As a result, several bird species were eliminated in the park.
“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed.” —President Richard Nixon Signing statement for the Endangered Species Act, December 28, 1973