Tundra wolf

The tundra wolf is a predator of the canine family, belonging to the genus of wolves, one of its subspecies, living in the north of Russia. Latin name — Canis lupus albus and was characterized in 1872 by Arthur Kerr. It is also described by Ognev in 1929 as the Turukhansky wolf (turuchanesicus); Dobovsky in 1922 as the Kamchatka (kamtschaticus) wolf; Dubovsky in 1922 as Dubovsky's wolf in 1929

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Tundra Wolf

Photo: Tundra Wolf

The wolf has many subspecies (some zoologists distinguish up to 25), but the external differences are erased. Predators can be clearly divided into three large groups: tundra, forest and desert-steppe individuals. They all have common ancestors. It is believed that tundra predators are much larger than other subspecies, but this is not the case. The fluffy fur that protects the wolves creates a large volume, it is due to this that the animals look especially large.

This animal is adapted to harsh arctic conditions. There are very few differences between the inhabitants of the tundras of the European part of Russia, Western Siberia, Taimyr, and Yakutia. They are similar in appearance and lifestyle to predators that live in Alaska and the Canadian tundra. Most often, animals can be found in the open landscapes of the southern tundra, forest tundra. Within these zones, distribution throughout the territory depends on the availability of food supply — ungulates, the possibilities of hunting them, on the depth and quality of the snow cover.

Video: Tundra wolf

Tundra wolves are pack animals, but a group can be spoken of as a single whole if there are strong relations between members of the community and they act together. The core is a seasoned couple. Male — leader in matters of manifestation of power, and his partner determines the route of the pack. When dispersed, young people always know where the she-wolf is by howling and marks. Adult predators of lower rank form the core of the pack with the mated pair and control the behavior of the other members, dampen their aggressiveness and maintain the structure.

Sexually mature individuals of the lowest rank, under strict control, leave the pack, live alone or unite in a group. One-year-old or profitable individuals have a sparing status. They are energetic and inquisitive, they are the first to learn and convey to the pack information about the future victim of the hunt.

Appearance and features

Photo: What a tundra wolf looks like

Photo: What a tundra wolf looks like

Tundra the wolf is a rather large predator, the average parameters for a male in the Arkhangelsk region are:

  • body — 118-137 cm;
  • tail – 42-52 cm;
  • skull -25-27 cm;
  • weight – 40-43 kg.

The female is characterized by the following indicators:

  • body – 112-136 cm;
  • tail – 41-49 cm;
  • skull – 23.5-25.6 cm;
  • weight – 36-37 kg.

In Taimyr, there are larger individuals whose body length is 123-146 cm, and weight 46-48 kg, there are wolves up to 52 kg. The animal has a thick and long hairline. It is soft and fluffy to the touch.

The length of the hairs are:

  • guides — 15-16 cm;
  • left – 8-15 cm;
  • fur – 7 cm.

In color, the tundra subspecies is much lighter than the forest subspecies, light gray with a reddish-gray underfur on top and lead-gray below. Shades vary from bluish-gray (in young) to reddish-gray (in old). Older individuals also have a lighter color. At the beginning of winter, the animals are colored darker, in the spring they fade and become lighter. There are no almost white animals, as in the far north of North America. By color, animals from the Kola Peninsula and the extreme north-east of Siberia are more similar to forest counterparts.

The paws are well furred with strong hair between the toes. This increases the footprint, which is important when moving on snow. Powerful paws are collected in a lump, on the pads the epithelium is keratinized. The forelimbs are rounded, the hind limbs are oval. When running, the hind legs step on the trail of the front ones, an even chain of tracks is visible in the snow. When the cover is deep, the pack goes exactly one after another so that it is impossible to understand how many animals have passed.

Where does the tundra wolf live?

Photo: Tundra wolf in Russia

Photo: Tundra wolf in Russia

On the Kola Peninsula, this wolf subspecies is rare. In Karelia, it prefers places where people live, low forests and along the coast of the White Sea. In the tundra and forest-tundra of the European part of Russia, wolves make seasonal migrations. In summer they move to the tundra, and in winter to the border with the forest-tundra.

On the Kanin Peninsula, tundra predators are found all year round. The main population of the European part and wolves from the Timan tundra winter in the area of ​​the Cheshskaya Bay. In summer, they completely leave these places and their burrows can already be found along the rivers Volonga, Travyanka, Shchuchaya, Indiga, Belaya, Svetlaya, Kamennaya Viska, Velti, Nerut, Sula.

Individuals living in the Timan and Malozemelnaya tundra migrate to the Timan Range and do not appear on the coast. In summer, tundra wolves make holes in the west of the Bolshezemelskaya tundra, along the upper reaches of the rivers Adzva, Bolshaya Rogovaya, Chernaya, Korotayka, Silovaya, Kara, along the Pai-Khoi ridge. In winter, they move to the forest-tundra from the Pechora bend to the upper reaches of the Mustache. Some of them go beyond the Ural Mountains.

In the Urals and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, these predators are numerous in the tundra, but they mostly arrange dens in the southern tundra and forest tundra. In the Arctic tundra, the wolf is rare, as it keeps closer to human habitats and herds of domestic deer. There are many wolves in the southern part of the tundra of Western Siberia, especially in the northeast, where wild and domestic reindeer are found. Predators can be found at the mouth of the Yenisei, in the Lower Olenek, Yana, Lena.

In the Verkhoyansk region, Kolyma and Chukotka, gray predators are a common occurrence. They are also found on the Lyakhovsky Islands, but only in summer, and in winter, following the herds of deer, they migrate to the mainland. During the breeding season, den sites are well protected. Hunting grounds are varied. In the tundra, daytime places are located mainly in river valleys, in thickets of willow and dwarf birch. On the Yamal and Bolshezemelskaya tundra, predators often nest in bushes along river valleys or dry meadow slopes, on floodplain terraces, and along watersheds in dry willow forests. They settle more densely on the coast.

Now you know where the tundra wolf lives. Let's see what he eats.

What does the tundra wolf eat?

Photo: Eurasian Tundra Wolf

Photo: Eurasian Tundra Wolf

It is a predator and the basis of nutrition – medium and large mammals, more often ungulates. Their number determines the number of wolves. In summer, a greater variety of food is available – animals of medium and small size. In the cold season, the main food of the tundra wolf is wild and domestic deer, mostly calves and calves. Of medium-sized animals – arctic foxes, hares, foxes, and of small animals – various rodents, fish, of birds – ptarmigan. Wolves can eat carrion, rob hunters' traps and traps.

In summer, birds occupy a significant share in the diet: flocks of molting geese, chicks, eggs of other migratory birds. Since, apart from Taimyr, wild reindeer are quite rare in other regions of the Far North, domestic reindeer are of great importance in the summer, herds especially suffer during calving. About 36% of reindeer are killed by tundra wolves in spring and summer.

An interesting fact: A pack of 5-7 tundra wolves can drive and eat a deer at a time, whose weight is about 120 kg. Only horns, bones, a scar remain at the place of the feast. But at the autopsy of wolves, the contents of the stomach are no more than 2-3 kg, up to a maximum of 6 kg.

Food is digested very quickly. The stomach of wolves caught a few hours after a heavy meal is half empty. The daily need for food depends on the season and is 4-6 kg. Predators can eat up for the future and hide their prey in reserve. This is especially true for the tundra wolf.

In winter, in places where livestock is in stalls, wolves eat everything they can get, up to carrion on cattle burial grounds and even their own brethren. Hunters often watch how wolves eat predators shot from an airplane or meet the corpses of animals crushed by their fellow tribesmen or a pack nibbling on the remains of a wolf.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Tundra wolf in nature

Photo: Tundra wolf in nature

Tundra wolves that feed on hunting traps and traps, carrion, marine waste live in pairs or singly, especially old males that are not capable of breeding.

Packs of wolves keep apart and are hostile to fellows from other groups, but fights between them do not arise. The protection of the territory takes place without contact with alien individuals through marking with urine, feces, secretions of the genital and anal glands, “cellars” and howling. Predators, chasing prey and getting into someone else's territory, leave it, meeting marks. Due to this behavior, the boundaries of the pack's territory are preserved for many years. If the population of the flock drops sharply, even one pair can keep the site within the established limits.

There are neutral zones 2-4 km wide, acting as a buffer, where wild ungulates can survive the winter. For the day, wolves go to sheltered places, especially when it is cold, windy and damp. When dry and quiet, they can nest openly. In spring, winter, autumn, during a nomadic lifestyle, predators sleep where they have to. Vigorous activity is not so strongly tied to the change of day and night, since in the tundra there is no clear distinction between the time of day. In summer, the animals stay closer to the den.

Most tundra wolves wander most of the year without permanent hunting grounds. Twice a year they move along the meridian, following the driven herds of deer. They follow the deer to the south to the border of the forests, but they do not go deep into this zone, although this is where most of the herds winter.

Predators remain in the forest-tundra, in moss swamps, where the snow is less deep and more dense. Here they feed on the white partridge wintering in the swamps, hare, and elk. They also stick to river valleys near settlements. In the Nenets national In the district, in addition to seasonal migrations, there are migrations of flocks from the Bolshezemelskaya to the Malozemelskaya tundra, and no reverse transitions were noted. In the European North, seasonal migrations of tundra wolves are 200-300 km.

In winter, few predators remain in the tundra, they move to the sea coast, where they keep near small herds of deer belonging to fox hunters or fishing camps where they feed waste from game and fish. In the north of Yakutia, tundra wolves follow reindeer regularly to the New Siberian Islands and back.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Tundra Wolf

Photo: Tundra Wolf

Animals are monogamous and remain faithful until the end of their lives. The maturation of wolves occurs in 2-3 years. The estrus in females begins in late February-March. Before the start of the rut, the flocks break up, first the seasoned ones are separated, then the over-feds, then the arrived individuals. Seasoned males become attentive to the she-wolf, drive away the youth, they are the first to go through the snow. The lair is arranged on the southern slopes, where the snow melts faster, they are warmed by the sun more.

Tundra predators arrange shelters:

  • in earthen burrows that they dig themselves or use the burrows of arctic foxes and foxes. The burrow begins with a one and a half meter entrance trench, followed by an underground passage 0.5-0.6 cm wide, 2-10 m long. The construction ends with a nesting chamber 150x100x70 cm. It is located at a depth of 1.5-3 m. There is no nesting litter in the chamber;
  • in rocky places, the den has a similar device, but they are shorter; li>in natural shelters: crevices and rocky caves, on steep river banks with canopies;
  • in the Kaninsky tundra predators live on the hills in summer. In the region between the Lena and Khatanga rivers, burrows are not longer than one and a half meters, and their depth is less than a meter. On the territory of Anadyr, wolves give birth in earthen burrows.

Pregnancy lasts 62-75 days. In the Nenets Okrug, on average, a female has 6.5 embryos, in a litter from 1 to 9 babies. In the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, on average — 3-4, rarely a litter reaches 5 puppies. The mature female comes to the old den, the primiparas are looking for a new place near the place where they were born.

Wolf cubs appear in the warm season, when food supplies increase. They appear blind, the auditory ear openings are closed. Weight 400 g. They begin to see clearly for 10-12 days, for 2-4 weeks they have fangs, at three weeks they begin to crawl out of the den. At first, the mother does not leave the burrow, the father brings prey or regurgitates half-digested food. Babies from the age of one month begin to take this food, although they eat milk until the age of one and a half months.

Mother at this time only finishes the leftovers. At a month and a half, babies run away and hide from danger, at three weeks adults leave them, going hunting. Predators do not protect their offspring and flee when attacked. But, following her maternal instinct, she-wolf can find wolf cubs taken from the den and guard from near the place where they are.

Natural enemies of tundra wolves

Photo: What a tundra wolf looks like

Photo: What a tundra wolf looks like

Only 20% of wolf cubs survive to adulthood. The life span of the tundra wolf is about 12 years. These large predators have no enemies, except for nature itself, which puts these animals in the strict framework of the climatic conditions of the Far North. Cold winters, lack of food affect the population and mortality.

Predators capable of coping with wolves are his brethren. Old, sick, weakened individuals are immediately torn apart by a pack, which on the one hand helps stronger individuals survive, on the other hand, the best representatives of the tundra wolves remain alive.

Interesting fact: There were cases when a wolf that was poisoned by strychnine bait and rolled around in convulsions was instantly torn apart and eaten by a pack.

Ticks parasitize these predators. Scabies predators are affected less frequently than foxes. Wolves also suffer from withers, fleas, nematodes, some of which they become infected with from fish. Among the diseases of gray predators, rabies is especially dangerous. When sick, the animal loses its inherent caution, attacks people. Wolves in nature are the main reservoirs of the rabies virus.

Animals are resistant to diseases, the spread of diseases is restrained by a segregated lifestyle. This is an ecologically plastic subspecies, adapting to different conditions, it has no enemies, except for humans. Wolves harm reindeer herding and hunting; in the Arctic, hunting is allowed everywhere. The pursuit and shooting of tundra predators is often carried out from aircraft and helicopters.

Population and species status

Photo: Predatory Tundra Wolf

Photo: Predatory Tundra Wolf

The tundra wolf has a highly developed psyche, which allows him to have a good survival rate, despite the constant struggle of a person with a livestock of a predator. This subspecies lives throughout the tundra. It is not found only on the Solovetsky Islands, Franz Josef Land, Severnaya Zemlya.

The total number of predators is difficult to determine even approximately, since the accounting methodology is imperfect. The number in the Yenisei region can be judged from the data of 1996, when 215 areas of tundra wolf families were recorded. Each family has 5-9 individuals. In the European part, the wolf population is smaller, for example, in the Timan tundra, on average, one individual per 1000 km² is found., And by autumn there are about 3 predators per 1000 km².

The death of mothers in fights over food is an important factor in regulating the number of these animals. First of all, these are weakened and sick animals. Reindeer breeding annually loses a significant part of the livestock from wolves. For example, for ten years, starting from 1944, in the Yamalo-Nenets nat. 75 thousand deer were destroyed by predators in the district. Aviation is used to reduce the number of wolves. In the Nenets national in some years, 95% of animals were killed with its help, in the period from 55 to 73 of the last century, 59% of wolves were destroyed.

An interesting fact: the tundra wolf is very mobile, he can travel long distances. Tracked from an aircraft, a pack of wolves traveled more than 150 km in 20 hours. And a pair of wolves covered a distance of 70 km overnight.

This wolf subspecies is rated as Least Concern. The extermination of the tundra wolf is carried out both by active methods: aviation, with snowmobiles, the destruction of broods, pursuit on skis and deer, and passive ones: traps, baits with poison. Tundra wolf — a beautiful animal, with characteristic features of behavior inherent only to it, and it must be preserved. The fauna of Russia and the world should not be depleted by one more species, since it will be impossible to restore it.

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