|C. l. arctos, Parc Omega, Quebec, Canada|
|Subspecies:||C. l. arctos|
|Canis lupus arctos
|C. l. arctos range|
The Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), also known as the Melville Island wolf is a possible subspecies of gray wolf native to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, from Melville Island to Ellesmere Island. It is a medium-sized subspecies, distinguished from the northwestern wolf by its smaller size, its whiter coloration, its narrower braincase, and larger carnassials. Since 1930, there has been a progressive reduction in size in Arctic wolf skulls, which is likely the result of wolf-dog hybridization.
Contrary to its mainland counterparts, the Arctic wolf has never been seriously hunted or pursued, as the high Arctic holds few human settlements. As a result, the Arctic wolf is relatively unafraid of people, and can be coaxed to approach people in some areas. It has occasionally acted aggressively toward humans. Otto Sverdrup wrote that during the Fram expedition, a pair of wolves attacked one of his team-mates, who defended himself with a skiing pole. In 1977, a pair of scientists were approached by six wolves on Ellesmere Island, with one animal leaping at one of the scientists and grazing a cheek. A number of incidents involving aggressive wolves have occurred in Alert, Nunavut, where the wolves have lived in close proximity to the local weather station for decades and become habituated to humans.
The Arctic wolf was first described as a distinct subspecies by British zoologist Reginald Pocock in 1935, after having examined a single skull from Melville Island. As of 2005[update], the Arctic wolf is still recognized as a distinct subspecies by MSW3. However, studies undertaken on Arctic wolf autosomal microsatellite DNA and mtDNA data indicate that the Arctic wolf has no unique haplotypes, thus indicating that its colonization of the Arctic Archipelago from the North American mainland was relatively recent, and thus not sufficient to warrant subspecies status.
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- L. David Mech, The Arctic Wolf: 10 Years With the Pack, Voyageur Press 1997, ISBN 0-89658-353-8
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