IMAGE: International Wolf Center
May 24, 2000: The Arctic wolf (Canis lupus ssp. arctos), a subspecies of the gray wolf, normally lives north of latitude 67°, where winter temperatures can dip to –73 °C, in 24-hour darkness. In summertime, the sun often never sets, and the ice briefly breaks up into a collection of icebergs and ice islands. Thus, the Arctic is a harsh and unique environment to which the Arctic wolf is peculiarly adapted. However, as of May 8, 2000, a pair of Arctic wolves has taken up residence in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Latitude 47° N).
Two male Arctic wolf pups, out of an estimated 40–50 in captivity worldwide, were born and are being raised in Minneapolis, where the yearly mean temperature is a moderate 7 °C. Their development is being watched live around the world on the World Wide Web via a 24-hour WebCam that refreshes the image every 60 seconds.
Workers at the International Wolf Center will release the two pups at 7 weeks of age to a 1.5-acre enclosure at the IWC headquarters in Ely, Minnesota, five hours north of Minneapolis/St. Paul, to join 3 adult gray wolves. The adults were born in captivity and are therefore socialized to humans; they act as "wolf ambassadors" for visitors to the International Wolf Center. The goal of keeping these wolves in captivity is to educate the public about wolves, and dismiss some of the negative myths and prejudices that have surrounded wolves since colonial times.
The arrival of the pups is bound to cause some interesting shifts in pack dynamics, as wolf packs are social units based on a hierarchical system of dominance. The adult wolves currently living at the IWC comprise an Alpha (dominant) male, alpha female and omega (lowest-ranking) female. The two male pups will have to fit somewhere into this hierarchy once they are grown.