The Artic Wolf
Artic wolves will often go days without food, but can then eat up to 10 pounds of meat at one time. Several of the younger pack members will babysit the cubs while the mother wolf is hunting.
The majestic Arctic wolf lives in the silent vastness of the barren polar region, where darkness cloaks the land for up to five months of the year. This wolf hunts almost every other living animal. It is able to tolerate years of sub-zero temperatures, months of darkness, and weeks without food. The Arctic wolf lives in one of the few places on earth where it is safe from the greatest threat of all, man.
Arctic wolves inhabit some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. The arctic wolf is one of the few mammals than can tolerate these conditions. The wolf preys on lemmings and arctic hare, but its most substantial source of food is the musk ox and caribou. The wolf pack has to travel over areas of up to 800 square miles in search of prey. When winter temperatures plummet, the wolves may follow migrating caribou south. Full grown caribou and musk oxen are far too powerful for a single wolf to attack alone, so wolves must always work together as a pack when hunting large prey. Surprise attacks are almost impossible on the open tundra; by the time the pack approaches, its prey is in a defensive stance. The wolf pack must then try to disrupt the herd. The wolves circle the herd and prowl around, forcing the oxen to shift their ground to face them. If the wolves are successful, the oxen scatter. Once the herd has scattered, the wolves give chase, trying to isolate a young or weak animal. If one wolf catches a victim, the others will aid in killing it. A musk ox provides enough food to last the wolves for several days.
Wolves usually live in small packs, or family groups, that consist of a breeding pair, their cubs, and their unmated offspring from the previous two or three seasons. All of the adults in the pack cooperate 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. If a lone wolf finds unoccupied territory, it will claim it by marking it with its scent. It then attracts a mate and starts a new pack.
Throughout the fall and winter, wolves keep on the move. But after mating in March, the pregnant female leaves the pack to find a nursery den. She may dig a new one, but where the ground is frozen, she will be forced to return to an old den in a cave or rock cleft. The cubs are born deaf, blind, and helpless. They are totally dependent on their mother, and she in turn relies on her mate to bring her the food she needs. After a month, the cubs are able to eat meat. From then on, the whole pack shares in the job of feeding them with regurgitated meat from a kill. The cubs may strike out on their own the following year.
Wolves in general have been threatened throughout history. The Arctic wolf is the only subspecies still found over the whole of its original range, largely because it rarely encounters humans.