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Types of Wolves: Gray Wolf

© written by Tasha Guenther

Gray Wolf Subspecies: Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf
© DLTK's Inc.

The magnificent arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos) is often mistaken as its own species of wolf entirely; however, it is but a subspecies of gray wolf (this is very easy to remember since arctic wolves are white and white is a shade on the gray scale)!

Arctic wolves live through some seriously harsh winters! They can survive days and days without food, and can endure temperatures as cold as minus 40 degrees celcius.

To ensure survival, they feed on a wide range of prey: arctic hares, various arctic sea birds, waterfowl, and even seals! And unlike the Vancouver Island wolf, the arctic wolf's territory is extremely vast, often covering up to 2,500 square kilometres! They are patient, steady hunters, and they eat all of their prey--even the bones.

Apart from their white fur, scientists rely on their smaller snouts and shorter ears to tell them apart from other species of wolves. Size-wise, they are generally average-sized wolves, with the largest males measuring at a 78cm shoulder height and around a 2 metre length from nose to tail. The largest males are close to 180 pounds!

Strangely enough, arctic wolves live to be very old (sometimes 20 years) in sanctuaries but usually do not even live 10 years in the wild.

The arctic wolf, or white wolf as its more commonly known, is actually the only subspecies of wolf that is still found in every part of its ancestral territory. This is mostly due to the fact that arctic wolves live in the arctic and therefore rarely come into contact with humans! However, arctic wolf populations are currently unstable.

They live all the way up in the arctic... so why are their populations dwindling? The answer is global warming. With changing global temperatures, arctic wolves, like polar bears, are seeing vast changes to their habitat, food source, and way of life.