The polar wolf is a graceful and strong animal. These individuals are among the largest wolves in the world. Polar wolves are adapted to survive in the most severe conditions – in the Far North.
Origin of the species and description
The polar wolf is one of the subspecies of the canine family of wolves. The subspecies is distinguished not only on the basis of morphological features, but also on the basis of the habitat — beyond the Arctic Circle. The canine family is a very large family that includes wolves, jackals, and foxes. As a rule, these are large-sized predators with developed jaws and paws.
Due to their woolen cover, many of them are objects of the fur trade. Even in the Paleocene, all predators were divided into two large groups – dog-like and cat-like. The first representative of the canids lived far from cold lands, but on the territory of present-day Texas – Progesperotion. A creature that is intermediate between canids and felids, but still has more traits from the canine family.
Video: Arctic wolf
Wolves are often called the progenitors of dogs, but this is not entirely true. Dogs were originally one of the subspecies of wolves. The weakest individuals of the subspecies broke away from packs to live near human settlements. Primarily, they lived near landfills, where they ate waste. In turn, the first dogs warned people by barking about the approach of danger.
So each settlement had its own pack of dogs, which as a result became domestic. Polar wolves are considered close relatives of the Samoyed dog breed. This is the oldest breed that has always been next to a person living in the Far North. They have an accommodating affectionate nature, friendly, but at the same time calm, efficient and hardy.
Appearance and features
Outwardly, the polar wolf looks more like a dog than a typical representative of the wolf species. Their color is white, with a silvery sheen. The dense coat is divided into two layers: the upper thick hairs and the lower soft undercoat. The undercoat retains heat, and the outer layer of coarse wool does not allow the undercoat to cool itself. Also, the top layer of wool repels water and dirt, making the wolf invulnerable to natural phenomena.
The ears of these wolves are small but sharp. In summer, the fur coat takes on a grayish tint, but in winter it is completely white. The polar wolf is one of the largest representatives of wolves. Its height at the withers reaches 95 cm, and the length from the nose to the pelvis is 150 cm, excluding the tail. Such a wolf in the summer can weigh about 80 kg, although it loses weight significantly in winter.
Interesting fact: In Chukotka in 1987, a wolf weighing 85 kg was killed – this a record for an arctic wolf and almost the largest weight among wolves.
The legs of polar wolves are longer and stronger than those of other members of the species. This is due to the fact that the wolf needs to overcome large snowdrifts and move on ice floes. Large paws allow not to fall into the snow – they perform the function of snowshoes. The muzzle of the polar wolf is wide and long. Males have large whisker-like spurs of fur along the edges of their heads.
Where does the polar wolf live?
You can meet in the following places:
- Arctic regions of Canada;
- northern Greenland;
- northern regions of Russia.
The wolf prefers to settle in the tundra — wetlands among low plants. The wolf does not need additional camouflage, as it is perfectly camouflaged with fur.
Interesting fact: At least 5 months in the regions where the polar wolf lives, it is night. This wolf is adapted to survive at night, making it a dangerous predator.
Polar wolves do not settle on ice floes and places that are excessively covered with ice. They also avoid areas of land where there is no snow – except during the summer periods. The vast areas where this wolf lives provide a large area for hunting, but at the same time, the lack of diversity of species makes hunting difficult. Polar wolves live in sub-zero temperatures for years and feel comfortable.
This complicates their keeping in zoos, since it is necessary to constantly maintain low temperatures in enclosures. Otherwise, the wolves get sick, overheat and die earlier. Thanks to such a habitat, hunting for polar wolves has always been complicated, so the species was not on the verge of extinction, like many other animals living in similar conditions.
Now you know where the white polar wolf lives. Let's see what it eats.
What does the polar wolf eat?
Due to the harsh living conditions, polar wolves have adapted to eat everything that comes in their way. Their stomachs digest plant and animal food, as well as carrion and very hard objects in an amazing way.
The diet of polar wolves includes the following foods:
- any birds that a wolf can catch;
- lemmings in the spring, when these animals breed;
- forest lichen, moss;
- musk oxen. These are large animals that can stand up for themselves, but in winter, in conditions of hunger, wolves attack herds of musk oxen in groups. An adult musk ox is a good prey for the whole flock;
- various forest fruits, roots;
In winter, wolves migrate after herds of deer and musk oxen, literally chasing them for hundreds of kilometers. They feed on the way: when herbivores make a stop, they try to attack old or young individuals. Such a hunt is not always successful: males of large herbivores attack in response and can kill a wolf. Polar wolves are adapted to constant hunger in winter. They may not feed for weeks, digging up roots and collecting various fruits, lichens and moss.
When a wolf has meat, one individual can eat up to 10 kg, which is why it cannot move normally. Small animals – hares, lemmings and others, — the wolf eats with skin, claws, bones and head. Wolves usually leave skin and bones for scavengers. The polar wolf does not disdain carrion itself, therefore it willingly eats what other predators have left behind.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Polar wolves live in packs of 7-25 individuals. Such packs are formed from families, including several generations. Very rarely, the number can reach up to 30 individuals – such flocks are much more difficult to feed. At the heart of the pack is the leader and the female, which form a pair. Children of the penultimate and last litter live with their parents, older children leave the pack to create their own families. If there are several older wolves of childbearing age in the family, then these wolves do not breed until they leave this family.
Interesting fact: Only the leader of the pack can lift his tail high – the rest of the wolves do not allow this in their behavior.
The female monitors the rest of the females of the pack so that they maintain order and a strict hierarchy. These females help her raise her cubs during the summer, and the rest of the time they are hunters who feed the elderly. Wolf packs have strict discipline. Wolves have a developed sign system of communication, which includes body movements, growls, squeals and many other aspects. After the leader and his she-wolf, there are elderly males and females, after them – young ones, and only at the very bottom are wolf cubs. The younger ones show respect to the elders without fail.
Fights within the pack are extremely rare – they occur mainly in the spring, when young wolves want to challenge the right of the leader to supremacy. They rarely succeed, and as a rule, they do not come to bloodshed. If the leader or his female dies for some external reason, the next high-ranking wolves take their place.
Polar wolves are very strong and hardy. They can run for hours at a speed of 9 km/h. Pursuing prey, they reach speeds of up to 60 km/h, but they cannot run for a long time. Sometimes wolves harass the prey by driving it into a trap where a large herbivore is waiting for several young wolves in ambush. Polar wolves have their own territory, which extends for many tens of kilometers. In winter, the borders are violated, as packs pursue migrating herds.
In the summer, if the border is violated, fierce fights occur between wolves. Polar wolves are far from being friendly animals. They can pose a danger to a person if he is too close to them. But lone wolves, expelled from packs for non-compliance with the rules or voluntarily left, are very cowardly. Seeing danger, they turn their tails between their legs and run away.
Social Structure and Reproduction
In March, the breeding season begins. Some young males of higher ranks may fight with the leader, competing for the right to mate – such fights can be fatal. That pair of wolves that breeds finds a secluded place: most often the female digs a hole under the bush. About two months after mating, the female gives birth to puppies that live in a den. The male at this time feeds the female while she feeds the still fragile puppies, and also protects the den from the encroachments of other wolves and other predators.
Interesting fact: The wolf father feeds the cubs and the mother in a peculiar way. He tears food into pieces, swallows them, and quickly carries them to his family. The stomach can hold meat up to a third of its weight. Then she regurgitates undigested pieces to she-wolf and children.
Usually 3 puppies are born, but sometimes there are 5. They weigh about 500 g, are born blind and are guided by the mother's scent. Only after two weeks they can open their eyes and stand on their paws in order to move independently. The mother treats the puppies very carefully and zealously guards them, sometimes not even allowing her father to see them. When the cubs are strong enough, the she-wolf and the leader return to the pack, where the rest of the she-wolves begin to play the role of “nannies”. Some of them may even secrete milk to feed the brood.
At the same time, the generation of wolves that was born three years ago, the penultimate brood, leaves the pack. They leave, forming first their flock, and then adjoining others. Sometimes young males stay together for the first time to be protected from other predators and wolves of different packs. Wolf cubs quickly learn to hunt. She-wolves bring them live prey so that they learn how to kill it and hunt. Training takes the form of a game, but eventually turns into a full-fledged ability to hunt.
Grown up wolves go hunting with a pack, where adult wolves teach them tactics and all sorts of dangers. Polar wolves live up to six years – this is a very short period of time, which is due to the harsh living conditions. In captivity, with proper care and temperature maintenance, wolves live up to 20 years.
Natural enemies of the polar wolf
The polar wolf is at the top of the food chain in its habitats, so it has no natural enemies. The only animal that can give him problems is the bear. This is an even larger predator, which, however, does not pose a direct threat to wolves.
Reasons why polar wolves and bears may have collisions:
- the wolves claim the prey of the bear. The fact is that the bear does not eat the captured animal with bones and fangs, preferring to bury the remains in the ground in order to dig up and eat up later. This state of affairs is not put up with by wolves who want to finish their prey after a bear. Then skirmishes can occur, during which the wolves, surrounding the bear, distract his attention, and they themselves pull the prey to pieces;
- the bear claims the prey of the wolves. Bears also do not disdain carrion, but they usually prefer not to meddle with a pack of wolves that eat large prey like musk ox or deer. As a rule, the wolves drive away the bear without difficulty, although it may rush at one of them and kill it;
- a starving bear hunts wolves. This also happens. Weakened bears, especially rod bears, may attack young wolves, come close to the pack and try to kill one of them. This is due to the inability to catch up with prey or find other food. Such bears most often starve to death.
Population and species status
The polar wolf population has remained unchanged since ancient times. This is due to the fact that since ancient times they have occupied the northern territories, where hunting for them is complicated by climate conditions. Arctic wolves can be hunted by the indigenous peoples of the north – their warm and soft fur is used for clothing and hiding places. But fishing is not widespread, since the wolf is a formidable predator that can both attack and quickly retreat.
The interests of the indigenous people of the North and wolves intersect only in domestic reindeer. Domestic herds are easy prey for a pack of wolves. People protect herds of deer, and wolves are afraid of people, but sometimes they still meet. As a result, the wolves either die or flee. But polar wolves can pursue nomadic people along with their herds.
Polar wolves are kept in zoos. They have the same habits as gray wolves. Captive-born polar wolves treat people well, mistaking them for a member of the pack. A person can even be perceived by wolves as a leader, so the wolves wag their tails in front of him and press their ears.
The polar wolf is a proud and beautiful beast. Because it is adapted to survive in the most severe climatic conditions, it is inaccessible to poachers, and its population has not changed for centuries.