Snow Wolves

Snow wolves in home

The Upper Arctic. Late morning. 

I had been photographing a pack of snow wolves for approximately 7 to 10 minutes. 

These creatures are part of the canine family and are also known as “arctic wolves” or “polar wolves”. The range of the arctic wolf includes the northern edge of North America and spreads up to the North Pole and the eastern and northern parts of Greenland. They don an impeccably white year-round coat that seems to suggest that they leaped directly from the pages of Narnia. Their name is derived from the icy environment that they inhabit. While their appearance is not only very aesthetically pleasing, it also functions as camouflage. Their milky fur allows these creatures to melt into the backdrop of their home, aiding in the hunt of muskoxen, arctic hares and caribou.

The snow wolf evolved to be a highly adapted carnivore, more than capable of surviving in their extremely cold habitat. In addition to their coloration, they learned how to depend on fat reserves during times of food scarcity. This allows them valuable time between hunts, which can be the difference between life and death when their prey is so scarce and difficult to hunt. Once they do have their prey cornered, there is little chance of survival for it. Snow wolves have incredibly sharp teeth and powerful jaws. They use these to immobilize the animal and then crush their airways.

Their Behaviour

An adult wolf can eat more than 20 pounds of meat in a single sitting. To put that in perspective, 10 adult humans could have a thanksgiving feast with that much turkey meat. Unlike humans, they may not feast again for days or weeks, so they have to take advantage of their food when they can. They let no part of their kills go to waste, eating everything from flesh to organs and crushing up bones along the way. It is this utilization of their hunts that enables them to survive in regions where little to no life can even support itself. 

Thanks to the below-freezing temperatures, their habitat also functions as a large freezer, keeping their food fresher for longer. A large enough kill can feed a pack of snow wolves for many days. The animals take turns eating their share and protecting the kill from scavengers. In times of severe prey scarcity, packs will migrate along with herds to stay close. Even the simple necessities of life like food, require these animals to fight for survival. It is this tenacity that draws photographers like me to them and can make any spectator appreciate them.

The pack of wolves that I had my eyes on, turned their back on me, denying me the chance to photograph them. Not one to accept defeat so easily, I left my camera and started to walk towards them. The leader of the pack, the Alpha wolf, turned around and blocked my path. The animal before me was massive, a prime example of its species. Fellow snow wolves can grow to be 5.9 feet long and weigh up to 175 pounds. 

Arctic Expedition Short Film

Snow wolves walking in the snow

View our Arctic Wolf Short Film on what it took to photograph these snow wolves and also the Arctic fox.

Read our Arctic Story Covered by Nikon

The movements of the arctic wolf are very mysterious as not much research has been conducted. The research that has been done suggests that these wolves migrate mostly during the wintertime. At this time their habitat is cloaked in pitch darkness for 24 hours a day. Understandably, this makes it extremely difficult to research them. One wolf movement study was conducted during the wintertime, in complete darkness. The study covered an area 1,400 miles south of the High Arctic and subjected the researchers to temperatures as low as −63 °F. They found that the pack followed a regular travel schedule that didn’t sway throughout the dark period and light periods. The ability of the wolves to keep up with their food source helps them survive unthinkable odds. However, these conditions can be a huge challenge for those trying to photograph them.

The few human settlements around the natural habitat of these wolves are newer tenants to the icy land compared to the ancient presence of the animals before me. Consequently, the artic wolf does not fear man. They have neither been hunted nor have they encountered humans enough to develop a fear. In fact, when face to face with a human, they are known to simply stand and gaze. Some coaxing can even convince them to come up close. This makes them a particularly tempting photography subject. Especially since having a timid subject may result in enduring the onslaught of the freezing wind and snow for longer. While rare to encounter in the wild, these bold animals are not threatened by the hunting and habitat destruction that plagues their southern relatives.   

In Conclusion

I decided to respect the Alpha’s message. I walked back to my camera so that I could observe the snow wolves from a distance. Meanwhile, the Alpha male and his mate had made their way to the top of the mountain. They glared at me from their new advantage point, making absolutely sure that they had driven home their message. 

And at that moment I was immediately connected to everything around me. Suddenly, I was present. No longer was I concerned about the discomfort of the – 50 °F cold I was in. For those 7 minutes, I was present in the experience I was having that so few people get to have in their lives. The world around me felt amazing. Even the 7 layers of clothing and the two pairs of shoes I was wearing did nothing to distract me from the moment I was experiencing. I felt a sense of oneness with my surroundings and harmony through my interaction with the arctic wolves.

Ever since I do everything I can to be in the moment.

Our Fine Art of Snow Wolves for Your Home Decor

Snow Wolves in Your Home

The expedition to photograph the snow wolves was a once in a lifetime experience that I would recommend to everyone. Understandably, not everyone is able or willing to subject themselves to the extreme conditions that these animals call home. So while you may not be able to lock eyes with an Alpha wolf on the tundra, you can still bring the majesty of the creature to your own home. These ones of a kind images freeze these moments in time. The snow wolf’s steely gaze can be yours to display in your home or office. From the comfort of an online art gallery, you can freely browse my vast documentation of this encounter.

View more wildlife in the snow images ARCTIC FOX | REINDEER | MUSK OX | BISON | ARCTIC WOLVES

BLOG

My passion has always been pushing the boundaries of human endurance. I came from the bylines of Mumbai to the Big Apple, living in big cities for much of my life. However, I’ve been led by this passion to explore the harshest extremes of nature. In the past, the lure of Alaska had beckoned to me, but this time I wanted to push the envelope beyond that. This led me to the rugged terrain of Grise Fiord in the northernmost part of Canada. With its abundance of icy snow, the Inuit hamlet houses a population of only 132 people. 

Getting to Grise Fiord was no easy task. The planning alone took 7 months. It was a small price to pay to ensure that the journey was meticulously analyzed for potential flaws. Most importantly, it would successfully lead me to the elusive wolves. After much difficulty, I finally found someone willing to take me to a place where no USA photographer had gone before. With their help I was soon able to track the Arctic Wolves at the North Pole. After months of hard work, my online art gallery is now stocked with images from this life-changing trip. I’m happy to say that they are everything I had hoped to achieve.

VIEW MORE ON OUR SNOW WOLVES BLOG

View our other wildlife photo collections

Horses | Elephants | Lions | Tigers | Mountain Lions | Arctic Foxes
Musk Oxen | Monkeys | Bears | Bald Eagles | Bison | Reindeer

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