Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos)

By: Adrianne Evangelista

Scientific Classification

C. lupus
C.l. arctos
A group of Arctic Wolves By L. David Mech
A group of Arctic Wolves By L. David Mech

Arctic Wolf in the Summer By L. David Mech
Arctic Wolf in the Summer By L. David Mech


Arctic Wolves reside in the Arctic Tundra, about 67 degrees north latitude. Their habitat is covered with snow and ice for most of the year, due to it's low density.

Climate is low, especially during the winter months. Only two seasons occur in the Arctic tundra; Summer and Winter. During the summer, the average temperatures range from 3 °C to 13 °C, although in the winter, temperatures go lower than freezing, about -50 °C. Typical weather is windy blizzards during winter. Because the annual precipitation is very low, the land is usually covered with icy surfaces and snow, until the summer months leave bogs and marshes scattered around the land. The only flora that can survive in these conditions include mosses, lichen, and low growing plants, such as the Arctic Poppy (Papaver radicatum).


Arctic Wolves are a sub species of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus), and are similar in anatomical structure, but are generally smaller in body size compared to the gray wolves. They have a creamy-white color; their white fur allows them to blend into their frigid environment. The white hair shafts have more air pockets then those with color pigment, and provide better insulation. Arctic Wolves have more rounded ears, shorter muzzle and legs, hair between their pads of feet, and long fur to keep them warm. These adaptations keep the Arctic wolf protected by the harsh winter environment they live in, and support their ability to hunt for prey.
They are slender, with a deeply descending ribcage and sloping back. Their abdomens are pulled back towards their spine, and have heavily muscled necks. Their compact structure is lean and muscular, and affiliates with their high stamina and speed. Their paws are unique alone; their front paws have 5 toes, and their back have 4. This is because, in order to move effortlessly on the icy, snow covered terrain, it provides grip on irregular surfaces.
A wolf’s canines reach up to 2 inches long, and have forty-two teeth used for stabbing prey. They have a heavy and powerful jaw. These adaptations help the wolf latch onto prey and break bones to possibly immobilize them during a hunt. Their main diet consists of meat, but at dire extremes, they will turn to berries as a food source.
Like humans, wolves breathe with their diaphragm, by pulling air back and forth in and out of their lungs. They have a closed circulatory system where their heart contains four chambers. Their right side of their heart pumps in blood into lungs, and their left side pumps blood to the lungs. They have extraordinary sense of smell, and can smell one hundred times greater than humans.

Species Interactions

Alike all species of wolves, Arctic wolves hunt in packs. They focus on strategy and surprise attacks to make up for their speed. Arctic wolves are limited to only Caribou and Muskoxen. They feed on them entirely, fur and all. Because they hunt prey larger than themselves, they come up with strategic ways to capture their prey. This type of interaction is predation. Arctic wolves benefit as the hunter, as their prey is negatively affected.
Another interaction is with coyotes. There have been cases of both competition and predation. Wolves run out their competitor [coyote] from territory, and have been known to kill and eat them. Therefore, the coyote have slowly drifted away from areas where wolves are more often to be around. This is beneficial for the wolf because there is less of a competition to deal with when hunting for prey. Unfortunately, this negatively affects the coyote, where there is a less of a chance to find food for themselves.


Arctic wolves, along with their entire species, are succeptible to hundreds of parasites. To name a few, there have been cases of Tapeworm, Distemper, and Heartworm.

By: Kira Hagen


The Arctic wolf sustains most of the same breeding patterns as its common relative, the Gray Wolf. Wolves tend to bear young in areas where the valuable resource of food is abundant. This is so that wolves can reproduce quickly to increase their numbers. Also, the easy access of food raises the chances of raising healthy pups. Although females are capable of producing every year, living in the high Arctic cuts a strain to Arctic Wolves. Still, wolves have the advantage of a pack, which protects and nurses young pups until they mature.
Female Arctic Wolves commonly produce fewer pups in the average 5-6 pups in a litter, based on its environment. To mate successfully, wolves find both a mate, and territory with sufficient food sources. Wolves, in some cases, wait for the right time to mate by, “…wait until the established breeding position opens, become an extra breeder within the pack, carve out a new territory from the established mosaic, or usurp an active breeder” (Boitani 3). Finally, when the pups are born, parent wolves care for their young until they are mature, thus helping the young pups gain an opportunity to learn hunting strategies they need to survive with as a pack.

Free Topic

Works Cited

"Arctic Wolf." Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 30 Mar 2011.

Mech, David L. Closeup of Arctic wolves in winter. Photograph. Arctic Theme Page, n.d. Web.
30 Mar. 2011. <>

Mech, David L. Arctic wolf in summer. Photograph. Arctic Theme Page, n.d. Web.
30 Mar. 2011. <>

Shukla, Chatteriee Ishani. “Arctic Tundra Climate.” Buzzle, 12 November 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.

Harper, Elizabeth. "Arctic Wolf." International Wolf Center, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011

"Gray Wolf Physiology." Haven International, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011

Boitani, Luigi and Mech, L. David. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.