When the weather turns cold, we turn up the heat and get cozy around the fire. In fact, most people will do just about anything to escape the chill of winter, but some animals spend their entire lives in areas where the ground is permanently frozen. The Arctic Wolf, sometimes called a polar or white wolf, endure some of the harshest elements on earth, spending their life in the Arctic tundra.
Here are some amazing facts you may not have known about this highly adaptive and fascinating animal.
Made for the cold
The Arctic Wolf is built to thrive in harsh environments. They can weigh up to 155 pounds and reach over five feet in length. To help them deal with the freezing temperatures, they actually have two thick layers of fur. The outside layer grows thicker as winter approaches to prepare them for the freezing weather to come. The inside layer is close to the skin and creates a waterproof barrier. This keeps their skin dry which helps them stay a lot warmer, even during the bitter cold.
The Arctic Wolf has additional physical adaptations that make life in the tundra possible, like their small ears. This is an adaptation that prevents the loss of extra heat through the thin skin of the ears. They also have densely padded paws which give them protection from the cold and improved grip on icy, frozen surfaces. They even have dense fur between their toes for extra warmth.
Dealing with the elements
Where the Arctic Wolf lives, the ground is always frozen. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to dig out dens as many animals do in other parts of the world. To get shelter from the cold, they have to use natural features available in their environment, like caves or rocky outcrops. Once they find safe dens, they might visit them over and over throughout their life. Since they are very territorial, they may even have a network of dens they can use as they roam and hunt.
As you might imagine, there is not a lot of prey for the Arctic Wolf due to the extreme nature of their environment. This means they have to cover the span of large territories to find enough food. They also have to be efficient hunters. Arctic Wolves actually will hunt in packs, going against the “lone wolf” image some people have of them. This is necessary for them to bring down large prey, like ox and caribou.
They also frequently hunt seals, lemmings, and Arctic hares. Since they are opportunistic hunters, they will prey upon nesting birds and nearly anything else they can find. And since food is scarce, they have to eat all they can when it is available. They might eat up to 20 pounds of meat in a single setting!
The Arctic Wolf is a super adaptive animal that has been able to make itself a home in one of the world’s most harsh environments. We invite you to visit our park and see one of these magnificent creatures for yourself!
Ready to plan a trip? You’ll find all the information you need, including discounted online tickets here.