The High Arctic Wolf in the Jones Sound Region of the Canadian High Arctic


  • Roderick R. Riewe



Active layer


The high arctic wolf Canis lupus arctos, a white, medium-sized subspecies of the arctic wolf, and a considerable carnivore, ranges over the Queen Elizabeth Islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. … With the object of adding to the meagre literature on the high arctic wolf, I present in this paper the results of observations I made on it over a total period of 425 days spent in the field in the Jones Sound region, collecting information on the local wildlife and Inuit. … Little is actually known about the wolf's predatory behaviour in the eastern High Arctic, and much of what is attributed to the high arctic wolf is merely hearsay or speculation. For example, in the Jones Sound region muskox carcasses which bear signs of attention from wolves are usually referred to as wolf-kills. It is possible that some of these carcasses have simply been scavenged by wolves. … Over the years, some of the residents of Grise Fiord have attributed the decline of Peary's caribou Rangifer tarandus pearyi in the region to the predatory habits of wolves, in spite of the absence of any proof that they have a controlling effect upon the size of caribou populations. It appears in actual fact that man has been blaming his competitor, the wolf, for the problems he himself has created. … From data based on reports of members of the Grise Fiord Detachment of the R.C.M.P. I have been able to derive the following average numbers of wolves taken: 1956-57 to 1962-63: 1.7; 1963-64 to 1967-68: 4.4; 1968-69 to 1970-71: 9.6. The sharp increase from 1.7 to 4.4 was a result of the reintroduction in 1964 of bounty payments in the Northwest Territories for the capture of wolves. A hunter receives $40 for each animal captured, as well as the pelt which has a value ranging between $10 and $150. Some pelts are used locally for the trimming of parkas, for which they are however considered inferior to the pelts of dogs or imported wolverine. Most wolves taken up to 1968 were either poisoned, accidentally caught in fox traps, or shot as they approached hunters or their dogs out of curiosity. Since the coming into general use of snowmobiles in the area, however, hunters have usually followed any fresh wolf track in the hope of catching up with one of the animals. The fact that the average number caught over the three years ending in 1971 was as high as 9.6 per year was therefore the result of overhunting by snowmobile, and not of an increase in numbers of the animals. The overhunting which took place over the years 1968-71 is the presumable explanation of the fact that not one wolf was taken during the years 1971-72. … Wolf carcasses are not eaten either by Inuit or their dogs.