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Arctic Wolf


Fact File

Class: Mammal
Order: Carnivore
Family: Canis – dog
Diet: Carnivore (Meat Eater)

Weight: Male 45kg female 36kg
Average length: 145 cms

Gestation: 57days
Conservation Status: LC

Fun Facts

Arctic wolves have shorter legs to reduce possible exposure ot the cold.

They have smaller ears, shorter muzzles than the grey wolf.

Arctic wolves can reach top speeds of 75km/hr (46mph)


Arctic Wolf

Canis Lupus Arctos

Habitat: The land in the Arctic is covered with snow and ice for most of the year except for brief periods during the summer months. Due to scarcity of grazing plants and resulting low density of prey species, wolves roam over large areas hunting for food.

Social Behavior: There is a highly complex social order in wolf packs.  Each pack has a dominant male and female who bond for life and are usually the only wolves in the pack who will breed. 

Breeding:  Average gestation: 57 days    Average litter: 3.5 pupsMating between the pair takes place during the breeding season of January through to March. Permafrost in the Arctic makes it difficult for the wolves to dig dens. Instead, their dens are often rock outcroppings, caves, or shallow depressions in the tundra soil. The mother gives birth to 3 or 4 pups in late May to early June. Litter size is smaller for Arctic wolves. Pups are born blind and deaf. They are entirely dependent on their mother; she is the only one who has contact with them at this time. She in turn relies on her mate to bring her food. At about ten days the eyes open and at three weeks the pups can hear. After a month the pups are able to eat meat. From then on the whole pack shares the job of feeding them, bringing meat which they regurgitate for the pups. Each member of the pack will affectionately lick, nuzzle, and sniff each pup. They become caregivers – providing food, play, and protection. Pups respond with squeaks and tail wags. They nibble and lick the feeder’s muzzle to stimulate regurgitation. They leave the den after eight to ten weeks to discover the outside world.

Information:  Arctic wolves are often called the ‘polar wolf’ or ‘white wolf’ and have white fur year-round enabling them to blend into their snowy surroundings.  They inhabit some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world where the air temperatures rarely rise above – 30 degrees C and the ground is permanently frozen.  They are one of the few species of mammal who can tolerate these harsh conditions.  Arctic wolves are usually smaller than gray wolves and also have smaller ears, slightly shorter muzzles and shorted legs to reduce heat loss through exposure to the bitterly cold air.  They live in packs of 7 – 10 individuals and use body language, vocalisation and scent marking to communicate with one another. Clear communication is a key element to the success of a cooperative pack. They demonstrate intelligence in choosing prey: they look for old, sick, or weak animals that are easier to catch. By nature they help to control the populations of other animals in the region like the musk ox, caribou and Arctic hares. 

Conservation:Low concern.  Industrial development threatens the Arctic wolf as an increasing number of mines, roads, and pipelines encroach on its territory and interrupt its food supply.  Climate change is a main threat to this wolf,  extreme weather reduces the numbers of musk ox and Arctic hares, thus reducing the wolves’ traditional food supply.

Did you know?

  • These wolves have thick insulating coats to help them cope in temperatures rarely rising above minus22 Celsius, and survive off their fat stores during the cold weather.
  • They have 2 layers of fur, which gets thicker in winter, the first layer is a waterproof layer.
  • Their sharp teeth with bone crushing jaws enabling them to eat the bones of prey as well as the flesh.
  • They communicate using their tails, as well as vocally.
  • Their loud howl can be heard up to 5km away – is used to assemble a pack before and after an hunt, to find pack members, as a warning.