Arctic Wolf

A subspecies of the gray wolf, the arctic wolf is found in regions of colder climates. Also referred to as the polar wolf or the white wolf, it is easily recognizable from its smaller size and snowy-white fur.  However, they are challenging to spot in the wild because they live in harsh conditions, making it hard to observe them regularly.

Scientific Classification

Canis lupus
C. l. arctos

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Canis lupus
C. l. arctos

British zoologist Reginald Pocock first described this species based on a specimen he saw on Melville Island, Canada, in 1935.

Arctic Wolf


Size: Length: 3.2 to 5.9 feet (1-1.8m) Weight: 70 to 175 pounds (45-70kg)

Teeth: These wolves have powerful jaws, consisting of 42 teeth, including 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 10 molars, the canines being the sharpest of all.

Body and coloration: They have a long, silky coat and a bushy tail. Their legs are long, and their paws are large and spread, with retractable claws.

Their coats are generally white, though sometimes gray variations have been seen in the wild.

Range and Distribution

These wolves live in the Arctic region, above latitudes of 67º North, primarily in North America and Greenland.


They live in snowy areas, having adapted to colder climates over long periods.

Arctic Wolf Habitat
White Arctic Wolf


It mainly feeds on arctic hares and musk oxen, but other animals like Arctic foxes, beetles, birds, caribou, and lemmings also form a part of their diet though depending upon availability. Some of them that live near human habitations rummage through garbage in search of food.


The arctic wolf, on average, lives for 7 years in the wild.


  • They are generally diurnal, though they can remain awake at night if need be.
  • These wolves are pack animals, traveling around in groups of six or so.
  • They move over long distances during the winter months when the sun rises for a short span. The movements have been hard to record, but their activities are assumably based on their prey.
  • Like most wolves, they communicate through howling. This may be to either locate other pack members for hunting or ward off other wolves.
  • It also uses scent markings to mark territories.

Are they aggressive

Researches have shown that the Arctic wolf’s level of aggression on humans varies as per their interaction with the latter. Those living in isolation display a curious and cautious behavior whereas wolves living in human habituation appear more violent.


While they don’t have many natural predators, polar bears are known to attack isolated wolf cubs.


  • The fur of the arctic wolf has two layers. An outer layer of fur grows longer with the changing seasons and helps them blend with their surroundings. The inner layer is waterproof, allowing them to stay dry and snow-proof, maintaining their body temperature at sub-zero temperatures.
  • The thick fur on their paws serve as a padding, insulating them from ice and snow, also providing a firmer grip on slippery surfaces . Like domestic dogs, they even have a mechanism that lowers heat loss from their feet when coming in contact with the ground.
  • Its ears are smaller than other wolves, preventing excess body heat from escaping.
  • To survive long winters, they may develop a layer of fat. This helps with both insulation and storing food.

Mating and Reproduction

Arctic wolves are monogamous and the predominant pair of the pack mate for life. The breeding season takes place around March to April. 

Baby Arctic Wolf
Arctic Wolf Pup

Life Cycle

After a gestation period of 63 days, a litter of 2-3 wolf pups or whelps is born. Females generally give birth in May. The pup’s eyes and ears are initially closed and take about 12-14 days to develop fully. In a few weeks, they go from being nursed to eating the regurgitated provided by their mother. For 6 months, they stay with their mother before engaging in group activities. By 8 months, they become full-grown adults.

Conservation Status

The IUCN lists this wolf as “Least Concern” or “LC”. However, it faces certain threats in the form of climate change and the decline of the prey population.

Arctic Wolf Picture
Arctic Wolf Image

Interesting Facts

  • Arctic wolves can run very fast, with the highest recorded speed being 46 mph.
  • In 1977, on Ellesmere Island, two scientists were approached by six wolves, with one of them jumping on one of the scientists.

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