The arctic wolf: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The arctic wolf, also known as the white wolf, is a...

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The arctic wolf, also known as the white wolf, is a subspecies of the gray wolf and has the scientific name of Canis lupus arctos. It belongs to the order of carnivores, to the family of Canidae and to the genus Canis, which it shares in particular with foxes, dogs and coyotes. It is also common that it is called white wolf or polar wolf, because it lives in extreme conditions of temperatures below 0 ºC, which no mammal can do.

In this PlanetAnimal file, we present the arctic wolf and its characteristics, and therefore invite you to continue reading so that you can learn more about this beautiful animal.


  • America
  • Canada
  • Greenland

Arctic Wolf Characteristics

Thereafter, we invite you to discover together the characteristics of this wolf which, undoubtedly, make it a remarkable species:

  • It is a smaller animal than other wolves, like the gray. It measures from head to tail between 1 meter and 1.8 meters. Regarding the height, it varies from 60 cm to about 80 cm and the weight is between 40 and 80 kg.
  • It is mainly white in color, although there may possibly be individuals with a slight grayish or light brown color on certain areas of the body.
  • It has a long, waterproof coat that is impervious to snow and water. It also has another lower layer, but with shorter hairs, which helps to guarantee the thermal insulation of the animal.
  • Special feature of the arctic wolf, the outer coat, as the cold season approaches, becomes denser.
  • It has strong legs adapted to isolate the cold from the ground on which it must move. In addition, they are anatomically placed to facilitate walking on snow.
  • It is distinguished from other species by a smaller skull. Studies carried out in previous years have revealed changes in the skull of this wolf, on the one hand, the reduction of this structure, and, on the other hand, its enlargement. By the way, the facial area has been trimmed and his teeth have been reduced.
  • As a possible strategy to reduce heat loss, the ears are smaller than those of other gray wolf subspecies.

If you like these fascinating animals, don't miss this other AnimalPlanet article that explores all the breeds of wolves.

Arctic Wolf Habitat

After reviewing the characteristics of the arctic wolf, you will wonder: where does it live? The arctic wolf has a distribution in northern America, particularly in far northern Canada, being found on islands such as Melville and Ellesmere. In addition, it is also found in Greenland. In general, the habitat of the polar wolf consists of arctic tundra.

This type of ecosystem is characterized by its low temperatures throughout the year, reaching around -30 ºC in the places where this animal is found. These are extreme conditions all year round. Summer gives rise to many hours of solar radiation, but to calm nights; In winter, on the other hand, there are almost 24 hours of darkness and winds with high-impact freezing storms in the region.

Arctic Wolf Habits

Arctic wolves are social animals that live in packs and carry out their activities together.The group is led by a couple, who will have offspring who will enjoy a privileged place within the herd. These wolves have a migratory behavior during the winter, since the days are completely dark, certain aspects such as feeding are difficult. Discover other animals that migrate in this other article.

On the other hand, they are territorial animals, moving across large swathes of the region in which they live. As for their relationship with humans, it has been proven that they are generally not afraid of people; on the contrary, they can approach us without any problem with a curious attitude, probably because, due to where they live, their relationship with us is not common. However, there are cases of arctic wolves attacking people and, although not very often, it is important to be aware of their proximity.

Arctic Wolf Feeding

What does the arctic wolf eat? The polar wolf is a fundamentally carnivorous animal, so its diet is based on hunting other species. Due to the inhospitable nature of their habitat, food availability may be limited.

The main food of the arctic wolf is musk ox (Ovibos moschatus), also including the rodent called frilled lemming (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus) and arctic hare (Lepus articus). Studies of the feces of this wolf revealed the presence of plastic and nylon debris, which indicates the consumption of garbage by these animals. Under certain conditions, they can also consume decomposed dead animals, adopting a behavior typical of scavenger animals.

The diet of the white or arctic wolf can be seasonal due to environmental conditions, so depending on presence it can also include certain birds, arctic foxes and beetles.

Reproduction of the arctic wolf

Within the herd, as we mentioned, there is a dominant pair, which has the privilege of breeding within the group. Arctic wolves are monogamous unless one of them dies, in which case the one that replaces the deceased member will emerge.

Breeding only takes place once a year, when the female comes into heat. The gestation period lasts about 60 days, a range that can vary, often a little less. The female seeks out a den, which can be dug into the ground or use a cave in a tree or rocks, where she will give birth to a litter of at least three or more cubs. Newborns are totally dependent on their mothers and begin to emerge from the den around eight weeks.

Arctic wolf packs, as happens in packs of other wolves, are characterized by protecting the smallest of all. Indeed, when they can feed themselves, several members of the group collaborate in this task by offering them food that they have previously caught together.

State of conservation of the arctic wolf

Of the different types of wolves, the arctic wolf has been one of the least affected in terms of population decline. No doubt this has to do with its distribution in remote locations, however, other subspecies as well as the gray wolf itself have not been so lucky.

But this animal is not entirely free from threats, climate change is affecting the habitat of its main food source, which is muskox. In this sense, when there is a decrease in the latter, the arctic wolf ends up being harmed. Thus, climate change is a latent threat both to the arctic wolf and to the biodiversity of these places in general.

Photos of The arctic wolf

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