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Arctic Wolf

Additional Info

  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Canidae
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: lupus
  • Members of the Family: Fox, coyote and domestic dogs
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern, not Threatened or Endangered.
  • Geographic Range and Habitat: This sub species of gray wolf occupies tundra and taiga in extreme northern Alaska and Canada.
  • Physical Description: Arctic wolves are have shorter, more rounded ears than gray wolves. They are also heavier bodied and nearly pure white. As a subspecies of the gray wolf, arctic wolves are the largest of the canid family. In both Gray and Artic wolves, males are larger than females.
  • Weight: 50 to 175 lbs (23 to 80 kg)
  • Length: 34 to 51 in (870 to 1300 mm)
  • Reproduction: Arctic wolves breed once each year, generally between January and March based on their geographic location. In a pack of wolves, only the dominant, or alpha, male and female will breed. This pair is monogamous although, with the death of an alpha individual, a new alpha male or female will emerge and take over as the mate. The female digs a den after mating in preparation for the birth of her litter. Pups are born in the den and remain there until they are 8 to 10 weeks old. Pups are protected by the entire pack and the beta wolves, or second most dominant, may help feed them by providing regurgitated meat.
  • Gestation Period: 63 days (high)
  • Number of Offspring: 5 to 14; avg. 7
  • Birth Weight: Approximately 16 oz (450 g)
  • Time to Weaning: 45 days (average)
  • Age at Sexual or Reproductive Maturity: 2 to 3 years
  • Average Lifespan (Wild): Arctic wolves may live thirteen years in the wild, though average lifespan is 5 to 6 years. As adults they usually die from old age or from injuries received while hunting or fighting with other wolves. In captivity they may live to be fifteen years of age.
  • Average Lifespan (Captivity): 15 to 20 years
  • Social Habits: Arctic wolves are highly social, pack-living animals. Each pack comprises two to thirty-six individuals, depending upon habitat and abundance of prey. Most packs are made up of 5 to 9 individuals. Packs are typically composed of an alpha pair and their offspring, including young of previous years. Unrelated immigrants may also become members of packs. There is a strong dominance hierarchy within each pack. The pack leader, usually the alpha male, is dominant over all other individuals. The next dominant individual is the alpha female, who is subordinate only to the alpha male. In the event that the alpha male becomes injured or is otherwise unable to maintain his dominance, the beta male will take his place in the hierarchy. Alpha males typically leave the pack if this occurs, but this is not always the case. Rank within the pack hierarchy determines which animals mate and which eat first. Rank is demonstrated by postural cues and facial expressions, such as crouching, chin touching, and rolling over to show the stomach.
  • Behavior: Rank is communicated among wolves by body language and facial expressions, such as crouching, chin touching, and rolling over to show their stomach. Vocalizations, such as howling allows pack members to communicate with each other about where they are, when they should assemble for group hunts, and to communicate with other packs about where the boundaries of their territories are. Scent marking is ordinarily only done by the alpha male, and is used for communication with other packs.
  • Food Habits: Arctic wolves are carnivores. They eat a variety of animals, depending on their location, by hunting on their own, or in packs. They may also steal the prey of other predators. As a pack Wolves may go after mammals include moose, musk oxen, and reindeer. Rabbits, and other small mammals are usually hunted by lone wolves.
  • Known Predators: Few animals prey on arctic wolves. Wolves are highly territorial animals so wolves from other packs will attack wolves that are alone or young. Controversy: Wolves play an important role in nature as top predators, because they regulate populations of their prey animals and remove weak individuals. Wolf ecotourism in National Parks and lands with wolf populations is a viable source of revenue. Wolves may sometimes kill livestock. The extent of livestock loss to wolves is often overstated, wolves typically prefer their wild prey.
  • To Cite This Page: Dewey, T. and J. Smith. 2002. "Canis lupus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 09, 2009 at
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