Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos): Barry Kent MacKay

The Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos) is a white-coloured subspecies of the Grey Wolf that lives its entire life above the arctic circle, above the treeline. The Grey Wolf, while extirpated through much of its former North American Range, still can be found in many regions from the northernmost tip of Queen Elizabeth Island in the Canadian arctic archipelago south into Mexico, and through that range there is a variety of geographic variations who can viably interbreed with each other where their ranges overlap, thus are ascribed subspecies status.  The Arctic Wolf is one of several subspecies so distinctive in appearance as to have known by its own English name, or names, as it is also called the White, or Polar, Wolf. 

At the same time that UK scientist Reginald Pocock named this subspecies in the scientific literature, in 1935, he also named another high-arctic race of wolf from northern Greenland – Canis lupus orion – the Greenland Wolf, now down to just a couple of hundred individuals. Essentially indistinguishable from the Arctic Wolf it might be more accurate to “lump” both into a single subspecies, which is now thought to have evolved fairly recently.  While wolves usually avoid people these ones, probably because they see so few humans, are noted for being relatively fearless. Their prey, especially in the long, arctic winter, consists mostly of Arctic Hares, but they also consume a variety of foods ranging from carrion (and human garbage) and lemmings through to Muskoxen, including birds, Arctic Foxes, and there are even records of packs twice killing Polar Bear cubs.

Global climate change, which is most evident in the higher latitudes, will pose the greatest threat to Arctic Wolves by allowing disturbance and disruption increased visitation or habitation by humans with guns, plus risk of oil spills, toxic wastes from mining, introduction of disease organisms, and rising sea levels reducing land mass availability, and possibly even military action over disputed territories.  Their survival is directly tied to the survival of their primary prey, the Arctic Hare and, perhaps in some areas, Muskoxen. 

This little study is painted in oils on a birch panel and is 18 by 14 inches.

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731

Purchase, print, product info:

31 Colonel Butler Drive

Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada

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