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|Canis lupus arctos|
The Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos), also called Tundra Wolf or Polar Wolf, is a mammal of the Canidae family, and a subspecies of the Gray Wolf. Arctic Wolves inhabit the Canadian Arctic and the northern parts of Greenland.
Arctic Wolves generally are smaller than Grey Wolves, being about 90 to 150 cm (3 to 5 feet) long including the tail; males are larger than females. Their shoulder heights vary from 65 to 80 cm (25 to 31 inches); Arctic Wolves are bulkier than Grey Wolves, often weighing over 45 kg (100 pounds). Weights of up to 80 kg (175 pounds) have been observed in full-grown males.
Arctic Wolves have white fur that is noticeably thicker than that of Grey Wolves; occasionally, an individual will also possess a dark "face mask" created by repeatedly digging the snout into prey viscera. They also possess smaller, more rounded ears, slightly shorter muzzles and shorter legs to minimize exposure to the cold.
Arctic Wolves have achieved lifespans of over 17 years in captivity; however, in the wild, the average lifespan is only 7 years.
Arctic Wolves, like all wolves, hunt in packs; they mostly prey on Caribou and Musk Oxen, but will also kill Snowshoe Hares and lemmings. Due to the scarcity of grazing plants, they roam large areas to find prey, up to and beyond 2600 km2 (1000 square miles), and they will also follow migrating Caribou south during the winter.
Due to the Arctic's permafrost soil and the difficulty it poses for digging dens, Arctic Wolves often use rock outcroppings, caves or even shallow depressions as dens instead; the mother gives birth to two to three pups in late May to early June, about a month later than Grey Wolves. It is generally thought that the lower number of pups compared to the average of 5 to 6 among Grey Wolves is due to the scarcity of prey in the Arctic.
The Arctic Wolf is the only subspecies of the Grey Wolf that still can be found over the whole of its original range; largely because in their natural habitat they rarely encounter humans.
- L. David Mech (text), Jim Brandenburg (photos), At home with the arctic wolf, National Geographic Vol. 171 No. 5 (May 1987), pp. 562-593
- L. David Mech, The arctic wolf: 10 years with the pack, Voyageur Press 1997, ISBN 0896583538
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