Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf

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  HEIGHT: To shoulder 25-31 in.
  LENGTH: Head and body, 3-5 ft.
  WEIGHT: Up to 175 lb., female lighter
  MATURITY: Males: 3 years
Female: 2 years
  MATING: March
  GESTATION: 63 Days
  # OF YOUNG : Called a litter: 4-5 Cubs
  HABIT: Family oriented; packs of 7-10
  DIET: Mainly arctic hares, mush ox, caribou, and lemmings
  LIFESPAN: 8-16 years (20 in captivity)
  FAMILY: Classified as "Canis lupus arctos" The arctic wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf. Others include the Timber wolf of America and the common wolf of Eurasia.
  Arctic wolves inhabit some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world: tundra, rolling hills, glacier valleys, ice fields, shallow lakes and green flats. They can live in places where the temperature is consistently below zero and the ground is always frozen. The arctic wolf is one of the few mammals that can tolerate these conditions. They have a keen sense of sight, smell, and hearing. The wolf preys on lemmings and arctic hare, but its most substantial source of food is the musk ox and caribou. Since there is not much grass on the "frozen tundra", the wolf must travel great distances to find food.

A single wolf pack often travels distances up to 800 square miles in search of prey. When the temperature drops, the pack will follow the migrating animals south. Wolves usually live in small packs, or family groups, that consist of a breeding pair (the alpha male and female), their cubs, and their unmated offspring. All the wolves in the pack look up to and follow the Alpha male and female. The pack cooperates in feeding and caring for the cubs. Lone wolves are usually young males that have left the pack in search of their own territories. They avoid other wolves, unless they are potential mates. When a lone wolf finds unoccupied territory, it will claim it by marking it with its scent. The wolf will then start it's own pack when other lone wolves enter the territory.

Wolves must hunt in packs because the animals they hunt (e.g. caribou) are too large for a single wolf to take down. Surprise attacks are almost impossible in the tundra. Once the pack has found a herd of caribou, the caribou will form a circle to protect their young. The wolves now have to somehow get the caribou to shift. To accomplish this, one wolf will move from side to side to try and get the caribou to shift. Once the wolf sees the chance, it acts. Once the wolves have infiltrated the circle the caribou will flee. The wolves will then take down the smaller and weak animals. This is the classic case of "Only the strongest will survive".

The wolves are always on the move in the fall and winter. But after mating in March, the pregnant female will leave the pack to find a nursery den. Since the ground is often frozen, she is often forced to return to an old den. The cubs are born deaf, blind and helpless. They are totally dependent upon their mother, and she in turn relies on her mate to bring her the food she needs. After about four weeks, the cubs are able to eat meat. The whole pack shares in the job of feeding them with regurgitated meat from a kill. After about a year, the cubs break away of their dependence on their mother and go out on their own.
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