Sudden death of an Arctic wolf population in Greenland. Marquard-Petersen U. Polar Research. 2021 Mar


This study reports the disappearance of a small Arctic wolf population in north-east Greenland founded in 1979 and provides the first long-term information on the wolf packs of this region. Data sources comprised specialized wolf surveys in two of three distributional core areas during three summers, 2012–14, and incidental sightings of wolves by military ground patrols during winter and by others year-round. The resulting time series spans 40 years (1979–2018). After gradually increasing for 14 years, the sighting rate peaked in 1996 and then declined to zero after May 2002, suggesting that the population went extinct. The crash occurred despite year-round legal protection in a national park and resulted in a 51.2% reduction in the extent of the occupied wolf range in Greenland and a 41.8% reduction in Greenland’s wolf population size. It was outside the scope of this study to conduct a complete analysis of all potential factors in the disappearance. In north Greenland, a small population of up to 32 wolves during optimal years continues to exist, and dispersers reach north-east Greenland occasionally. A number of measures are proposed that, if implemented by the Greenland Home Rule Government, would help secure the future of the few remaining wolves on the island.

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