The Wolf Intelligencer

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." John Muir

Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos)
Photo by Dave Mech, US Geological Survey

Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos)  – (Pockock 1935)

Common Names: Melville Island Wolf, Polar Wolf, Barren-Ground Wolf

Overall population: Unknown, least concern in terms of population stability except in Greenland.

Physical description:
The Arctic Wolf is almost pure white with tinges of yellow, grey and black coloring in its fur. The fur coat has two layers; the under layer providing warmth and waterproofing and an outer layer that thickens in winter to guard against the subzero temperatures. Arctic wolves have proportionally smaller ears to help retain body heat. They have padded feet adapted to grip frozen ground and ice. Arctic wolves can have brown eyes/irises.

Original Range and Current range –“throughout the northern hemisphere north of 15°N latitude”
CAA, High Arctic, Melville Island to Ellesmere Island.
The arctic wolf lives in the area along the northern edge of the North American continent and northward to the North Pole, as well as along the eastern and northern shores of Greenland.” (Arctic Wolves and Their Prey, L. David Mech, US Geological Survey, NOAA) 

Habitat / Ecology / Prey:
Habitat frozen tundra

Ecology –
Ecology / Environment – Canadian Arctic and Archipelago
Prey – ,Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi), Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus; Inuktitut: ᐅᒥᖕᒪᒃ, umingmak), Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus), Lemmings (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus), Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus), Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens), Arctic Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus parryii) (Urocitellus parryii)

Sympatric Carnivores Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

Relavant flora in the Canadian Arctic Archapeligo
Louseworts (Pedicularis spp.), Arctic Poppy (Papaver radicatum), White Mountain Avens (Dryas integrifolia), Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositofolia), Arctic Willow (Salix arctica), Snow saxifrage (Saxifraga nivalis)

A stochastic modelling framework to accommodate the inter-annual variability of habitat conditions for Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) populations. Kaluskar S, Johnson CA, Blukacz-Richards EA, Ouellet F, Kim DK, Arhonditsis G. Ecological Informatics. 2020 Mar

Beautiful Birds in the New World Arctic!
Snow goose (Anser caerulescens), Canada goose (Branta canadensis), Tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus), King eider (Somateria spectabilis), Greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), Rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), Spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), Sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis), Red knot (Calidris canutus), White-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis), Long-tailed jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus), Dovekie (Alle alle), Ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea), Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), Red-throated loon (Gavia stellata), Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), Rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus), Snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus), Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus tundrius), Common raven (Corvus corax), Horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), Hoary redpoll (Arctic redpoll, Acanthis hornemanni), Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), Sanderling (Calidris alba), Black guillemot (Cepphus grylle)

Interesting behaviors: Arctic wolves can unusually lack a fear of humans. (Arctic Wolves and Their Prey, L. David Mech, US Geological Survey, NOAA) 

Legal and Cultural Background:
Inuit and Climate Change
Geopolitics and the Arctic

Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna
The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) – Polar Knowledge Canada
Panarctic  Flora
Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Mapping Project
Arctic Biodiversity Assessment
Arctic Vegetation Archive (AVA)

Taxonomic/Genetic Information:

Carmichael LE, Krizan J, Nagy JA, Dumond M, Johnson D, Veitch A, Strobeck C. Northwest passages: conservation genetics of Arctic Island wolves. Conservation genetics. 2008 Aug

Carmichael LE, Krizan J, Nagy JA, Fuglei E, Dumond M, Johnson D, Veitch A, Berteaux D, Strobeck C. Historical and ecological determinants of genetic structure in arctic canids. Molecular Ecology. 2007 Aug


Further Reading
Ellesmere Island Journal & Field Notes by Henry Beston 2006. International Wolf Centre.
L. David Mech (text), Jim Brandenburg (photos) (May 1987). At Home With the Arctic Wolf. National Geographic 171(5):562–593
L. David Mech (1997). The Arctic Wolf: 10 Years With the Pack, Voyageur Press, ISBN 0-89658-353-8
Mech LD. The arctic wolf: living with the pack. Voyageur Press; 1988.
Arctic Wolf: The High Arctic by Laura DeLallo. Bearport Publishing, New York 2011

Canadian Arctic Archipelago / High Arctic, Sea Water, Sea Ice, Glaciers. Permafrost and Climate Change

Journal / Scientific Publications:

A stochastic modelling framework to accommodate the inter-annual variability of habitat conditions for Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) populations. Kaluskar S, Johnson CA, Blukacz-Richards EA, Ouellet F, Kim DK, Arhonditsis G. Ecological Informatics. 2020 Mar

Dominant arctic predator is free of major parasitoid at northern edge of its range. Koltz AM, Culler LE, Bowden JJ, Post E, Høye TT. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 2019

Dual infection with an emergent strain of canine distemper virus and canine parvovirus in an Arctic wolf under managed care. Stilwell JM, Anis E, Wilkes RP, Rissi DR. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation. 2019 May

The analysis of morphometric data on rocky mountain wolves and artic wolves using statistical method. Shafi MA, Rusiman MS, Hamzah NS, Nor ME, Azmi NA, Ab Latip MF, Azman AH. InJournal of Physics: Conference Series 2018 Apr

Exploring the diet of arctic wolves (Canis lupus arctos) at their northern range limit. Dalerum F, Freire S, Angerbjörn A, Lecomte N, Lindgren Å, Meijer T, Pečnerová P, Dalén L. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 2017 Oct

Natal den selection by sympatric Arctic and red foxes on Herschel Island, Yukon, Canada. Gallant D, Reid DG, Slough BG, Berteaux D. Polar Biology. 2014 Mar

Decline and extermination of an arctic wolf population in east Greenland, 1899-1939. Marquard-Petersen U. Arctic. 2012 Jun

Invasion of eastern Greenland by the high arctic wolf Canis lupus arctos. Marquard-Petersen U. Wildlife biology. 2011 Dec

Movements of wolves at the northern extreme of the species’ range, including during four months of darkness. Mech LD, Cluff HD. PloS one. 2011 Oct

Possible use of foresight, understanding, and planning by wolves hunting muskoxen. Arctic. Mech LD. 2007 Jun

Annual arctic wolf pack size related to arctic hare numbers; LD Mech – Arctic, 2007

Wolf (Canis lupus) predation of a polar bear (Ursus maritimus) cub on the sea ice off northwestern Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. Richardson ES, Andriashek D. Arctic. 2006 Sep

Decline and recovery of a High Arctic wolf-prey system. Mech LD. Arctic. 2005 Sep

Hierarchical habitat selection by tundra wolves. McLoughlin PD, Walton LR, Cluff HD, Paquet PC, Ramsay MA. Journal of Mammalogy. 2004 Jun

Movement patterns of barren-ground wolves in the central Canadian Arctic. Walton LR, Cluff HD, Paquet PC, Ramsay MA. Journal of Mammalogy. 2001 Aug

Regurgitative food transfer among wild wolves; LD Mech, PC Wolf, JM Packard – Canadian Journal of …, 1999

Food Habits of Arctic Wolves in Greenland; Ulf Marquard-Petersen; Journal of Mammalogy; Vol. 79, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 236-244; Published by: American Society of Mammalogists

Summer movements and behavior of an arctic wolf, Canis lupus, pack without pups; LD Mech – Canadian Field-Naturalist, 1995

A ten-year history of the demography and productivity of an arctic wolf pack; LD Mech – Arctic, 1995

Regular and homeward travel speeds of arctic wolves
LD Mech – Journal of Mammalogy, 1994

Changes in the skull morphology of the Arctic wolf, Canis lupus arctos, during the twentieth century; J Clutton‐Brock, AC Kitchener, JM Lynch – Journal of Zoology, 1994

Weaning in an arctic wolf pack: behavioral mechanisms. Packard JM, Mech LD, Ream RR. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 1992 Jul

The high arctic wolf in the Jones Sound region of the Canadian High Arctic; RR Riewe – Arctic, 1975

Wolf milk. I. Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos) and husky milk: gross composition and fatty acid constitution; BH Lauer, E Kuyt, BE Baker – Canadian journal of zoology, 1969 – NRC Research Press


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