Canis lupus tundrarum
Wolves collected in northeastern Alaska are assigned to this form on the basis of locality.
This is hardly satisfactory, but the study of available material has thrown some doubt on the validity of Alaskan subspecies of wolves
defined. It was evident, in comparing specimens of a large collection of wolf skulls, that considerable individual variation occurs.
One wolf was collected1 near Lake Schrader and 4 specimens were obtained from the Indians at IArctic Village. During
May 1952 I was able to collect an adult male a few miles south of Point Barrow-approximately at the type locality of C. .lupus tundrarum In addition, a large series of skulls, with
full collecting data, is at hand from the central Brooks Range. From this region about 150 wolves have been autopsied, but it has not been possible
to preserve all of them for mammalogical studies. Skull measurements for 48 wolves are given in Table 111. Most of these are
arctic specimens, but a few others have been included for comparative purposes. Age designations are given as accurately as
The age of young animals was computed by assuming a birth date of May 15. The date ON THE STATUS OF SOME ARCTIC MAMMALS of killing was known
for all specimens. Comparisons of the skulls of young animals were also made with the skull of a captive male wolf which was
five months old at the time of death (assuming the May 15 birth date). Material from which C. lupus tundraumwas *characterized (Miller, 1912) comprised specimens from
widely separated localities. Young and Goldman (1944) summarized available data
on North American
wolves. Goldman prepared the taxonomic
section, and had for study only 9 skulls of C. lupus tundrarum;of these, 5 were topotypes. Anderson (1943) studied 6
Canis lupus tundrarum is differentiated as follows from forms with adjacent ranges (after
Young and Goldman, 1944): “Closely allied to pambasileus of Mount McKinley region, but color paler
and grayer, the white less mixed with brown or buff on head, and back more sparingly overlaid
with black; skull with heavier dentition. Similar also to occidentalis and mackenzii of Mackenzie in size, but color darker, the general dorsal area more extensively mixed with black,
and the tendency toward pure white less evident than in occidentalis; dentition heavier.” (p. 417).
The study of 40 skulls designated as C. lupus tundrarum(Table 111) has made possible some understanding of normal
variation. The largest skull 1 examined was but 4 mm. shorter in condylo-basal length than the largest specimen of
C. lupus pambasileus recorded from Alaska by Young and Goldman. It exceeded in size the skulls of two adult C. lupus alces
Goldman (1941)as well as that of an adult male of the same form in my possession. I do not recognize that C.lupus tundrarum can be differentiated from C.lupus pambasileus on the basis of heavier dentition. Brooks Range and Arctic Coast wolves exhibit a wide range of variation in tooth
size. A few animals show
very light, relatively small teeth, while a few have a dentition more massive than average.
I doubt that colour in Alaskan wolves has any taxonomic significance.
There is a wide range in colour, from nearly white to almost black, but animals of either
extreme and all intermediate colours may occur in any given region. Some wolves appear white from a distance,
but all that I have seen close at hand have had some black-tipped hairs dorsally. The most nearly white specimen that I ‘have seen, an adult male trapped
by Eskimo near Anak- tuvuk Pass, has been deposited in the collections of the US. National Museum (No. 294404).
About half of all wolves killed or observed in the Brooks Range
approach black in colour. Miller (1912) stated that the colour of
C. lupus tundrarum is “said to be frequently white or whitish.”
It is likely, however, that he had some white specimens from the Canadian Arctic among the material he studied. Young
and Goldman (1944) differentiated C. lupus tundrarum from C.lupus occidentalis Richardson and C.lupus mackenzii Anderson
essentially on the basis of colour. Restudy of the various subspecies of wolves seems necessary to determine
whether the existence of so many named forms is justified. A series of each large enough to demonstrate normal individual variation is required.
I doubt that C. lupus tundrarum can be differentiated from C.lupus pambasileus.
The validity of C.lupus alces is also open to question.
Wolves are very rare on the Kenai Peninsula, and it might be expected that animals from farther north move into this region from time to time. In
any event, clear-cut ranges cannot be established for subspecies of a mammal as capable of movement over great distances as is the wolf.
In order to obtain adequate material from Alaska and northern Canada it will be necessary to enlist the aid of local trappers. It is particularly regrettable that the great
numbers of wolves killed by the predator-control activities of the US. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska are not being utilized for scientific purposes.
US. Fish and Wildlife Service methods for wolf control appear to be effective under
arctic conditions. During the winter of 1951-2 wolves in northern Alaska attained a very high population density-quite possibly
the highest ever observed for this region. The Eskimo of the Anaktuvuk Pass region killed 160 wolves by combined trapping
and shooting. US. Fish and Wildlife Service
predator control men killed over 200 in the same region of the Brooks Range and farther north on the Arctic Slope between
Umiat and the mountains. Since much of the predator control activities centred in the hunting grounds of the Eskimo, the latter felt
keenly the competition offered, and although they had killed a large number of wolves prior to the predator
control activities, they killed none afterward.
Wolves are known to fluctuate greatly in numbers in arctic Alaska (see Rausch, 195l),
and it seems questionable whether the high cost of wolf destruction would make a control program practicable even if it were considered biologically sound. It
is of interest to the biologist that large numbers of ground squirrels, at least one grizzly, some caribou, and at least 9
sledge dogs succumbed to the effect of strychnine-poisoned baits used for wolf control in the Anaktuvuk Pass region. The
question comes up whether this type of control might not result in a higher residual population of wolves, since the natural
transmission of disease might be minimized in a population of already greatly lessened density.
With the great wolf density of 1951-2 epizootic disease broke out which no doubt would
have had violent effect on their numbers, had man not intervened with other controls. Rabies appeared among them, as was the
case during the last time of high population density in 1944-5 (see Rausch, 1951). This was confirmed by rabies virus recovery1
from the brain
of a wolf killed while attacking tethered sledge .dogs in an Eskimo camp.
Rabies still occurred in foxes and dogs in eastern Alaska at the time of writing (December 1952).2 More
serious was distemper, which broke out in epizootic proportions over all of arctic Alaska. Sledge dogs at Barrow, Wainwright,
Point Lay, Anak-tuvuk Pass, and in a camp along the lower John River, suffered greatly from this disease. About 500 dogs died at Barrow alone, and losses
in other villages were of similar proportion. Arctic foxes died along the coast, and there is
little doubt that the disease was disseminated through the wild canine populations from the coast
to the dogs of the Inland Eskimo, and on southward. Since the wolves comprised a population highly susceptible to distemper, losses among them could be
expected to be heavy.