8 Facts about Arctic Wolf: Only the Alpha Male Has the Right to Mate

In the icy wilderness of the far north, one creature reigns supreme – the Arctic wolf. With its striking appearance and incredible characteristics, this fierce predator is a true marvel of nature. Join us as we dive into the world of the Arctic wolf and discover the secrets of this magnificent animal.

Arctic wolf
Scientific name: Canis lupus arctos
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis

1. Their bodies are built to live in the Arctic

The Arctic wolf, commonly known as the white wolf or polar wolf, belongs to the Canidae family. Just like the polar bear, its whole body is designed to live in one of the coldest areas on the planet. It possesses a long and silky coat, a bushy tail, and long legs with big and wide paws.

The wolf has a consistently thick and white coat, but some individuals may have a greyish tint. This feature gives it a perfect camouflage to blend in with its snowy environment.

With 2-layer fur, the white wolf cannot live in warm weather

The wolf’s fur consists of two layers. As winter approaches, the outer layer thickens to provide insulation against the impending cold weather. The inner layer which is waterproof helps the wolf stay dry and keeps its body temperature stable in sub-zero weather. In the spring, this layer is shed, causing the coat to become shorter and less dense.

To endure the harsh winter with scarce food resources, the Arctic wolf relies on its substantial body fat layer for insulation and sustenance.

Their furry paws function as a cushion protecting them from snow and ice and give them a greater grip on slick surfaces. Similar to domestic dogs, they possess a mechanism that minimizes heat loss from their feet when they contact the freezing surface. Their ears also reduce heat loss due to their small size.

2. Arctic wolf Habitat

Arctic wolves are creatures found in the remote regions of the far north. These wolves spend their entire lives inhabiting the Arctic tundra, which lies above the northern tree line at latitudes of 67º North. Their habitat primarily includes North America and Greenland, where they have evolved to withstand the harsh and snowy environments over many generations.

The Arctic Wolf population is considered the least endangered among all the subspecies of grey wolves. This is due to their tendency to inhabit remote areas with minimal human presence, thus reducing the likelihood of human-wolf interactions or conflicts.

3. They hunt in groups

Arctic wolves hunt in packs, as do all wolves. Depending on the number and type of prey, these creatures can form packs ranging from 2 to about 20 individuals, or alternatively, become solitary hunters.

When targeting caribou and musk oxen, these wolves hunt in packs and typically prey on the weaker and more vulnerable members (the young or the elderly) of the herd.

If muskoxen are scarce, these wolves cover extensive territories, spanning up to and beyond 2600 square kilometers (1000 square miles), in search of prey. They will concentrate on capturing Arctic hares, ptarmigans, squirrels, seals, lemmings, and other small animals within their reach.

Several of them, who reside in proximity to human settlements, scavenge through rubbish to find food.

During a hunt, the alpha male and beta female of a pack leader directs the pack’s movements as they scour the tundra for their preferred prey.

Arctic wolves take the highest position as apex predators in their ecosystem. Despite having few natural predators, isolated wolf cubs may fall prey to polar bears.

4. Behavior

Arctic wolves are typically active during the day, but they are capable of staying up at night if necessary. During the winter months, when the sun only rises for a short period of time, they travel long distances. The size of their territory is generally quite large, usually over 2,500 square kilometers (1,000 square miles), and is determined by the availability of food.

Arctic wolves have adapted to using natural features such as caves, rock formations, and depressions on the ground as dens since they cannot dig into the frozen ground like other wolves.

These wolves are known for their aggressive behavior. Studies have found that their level of aggression towards humans varies depending on their interaction with them. Those living in isolation tend to display a curious and cautious demeanor, while those living in areas habituated by humans tend to be more fierce.

5. Gray Wolf vs Arctic Wolf

Arctic wolves are often mistaken for grey wolves, however, they are a subspecies of the gray wolf with distinct habitats and behaviors.

Compared to grey wolves, Arctic wolves are smaller, having a size of about 3 – 6 feet (0.9 – 1.8 m) in length including the tail. But they are more robust, often weighing over 100 pounds (45 kg) and up to 175 pounds (80 kg) in adult males.

The Arctic wolf is sub-species of the grey wolf
Grey wolf

Arctic wolves inhabit a much more northern region than gray wolves. They cannot dig dens through the frozen permafrost like their counterparts. They rely on caves and other forms of refuge instead.

Hunting strategies also differ between the two subspecies. Gray wolves hunt in smaller groups to take down deer and elk, while white wolves must stay in bigger groups to successfully hunt their huge prey, such as muskoxen.

6. They howl to talk to each other

Arctic wolves, like other wolf species, use many different ways to talk to each other, such as sounds, signs, behaviors, and smells.

Each pack has its own territory. To establish their territories and avoid fights with other packs, multiple wolf packs howl to let other packs know about their location. When hearing these howls, they can know the size of other’s packs, allowing them to consequently avoid engaging in physical conflict. The smaller pack will simply relocate to a different area to find food.

Additionally, wolves utilize their urine to mark their territory, which contains pheromones that emit a strong scent to ward off other packs from intruding.

Individual wolves use a variety of sounds such as growls, snarls, barks, and other noises to communicate.

Similar to humans, wolves also utilize body language to transmit a wide range of messages. For instance, they may express a desire to play by wagging their tail and performing a “play bow,” or may indicate disapproval to another wolf by pinning their ears back and baring their teeth.

In fact, researchers have discovered that certain behaviors such as ear position and snarling can correspond to levels of fear and aggression.

7. Only the alpha male can mate

Arctic wolves are a socially complex species and practice monogamy. They have a strict social hierarchy, with only the highest-ranking individuals – the alpha male and beta female – permitted to breed. However, in larger packs, other wolves may also mate.

The mating season of Arctic wolves occurs between March and April. Due to the challenges of digging dens in the permafrost soil of the Arctic, they often use caves or rock outcroppings as dens.

The alpha male is usually the largest and continues to grow even after other wolves have stopped.

The female will go through a 63-day gestation period before giving birth to 2 or 3 pups in June. These pups are born with dark fur and closed eyes and ears. After 12-14 days, these parts fully develop. Their eyes are blue and will turn orange or yellow-gold when they reach the age of 8 and 16 weeks old. While uncommon, adult wolves may still have blue irises.

The pups progress from being nursed to consuming their mother’s regurgitated food in a matter of weeks. They spend six months with their mother before participating in group activities. In captivity, Arctic wolves can live for more than 18 years; however, in the wild, their typical life span is only 7 – 10 years.

8. Conservation Status

The Arctic wolf population is considered the least endangered among all the subspecies of grey wolves. This is due to their tendency to inhabit remote areas with minimal human presence, thus reducing the likelihood of human-wolf interactions or conflicts.



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We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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