National Geographic : 1988 Jun
meteorological data for Canada's Atmospheric Environment Services. Many of Ellesmere's people provided invaluable support to help photographer Jim Bran denburg and me achieve our prime objective: to find the wildlife. The island's meager resources support only seven species of land mammals. With vegetation so sparse to begin with and snow-covered for nine months a year, the plant-eaters- collared lem mings, arctic hares, Peary cari bou, and musk-oxen-must move almost constantly just to find enough to eat. This also means hard work for the carni vores-ermines, arctic foxes, and wolves. It was the wolves, of course, that captured our attention.* For 30 years, most recently as a biologist for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I have studied wolves in northern Minnesota and on Isle Royale, in Lake Superior. There the north woods obscures these elusive animals. For 12 weeks on Ellesmere's naked terrain I saw things I never thought I would live to see. Once, 100 feet from a wolf den, I was watching seven adults and six pups that were sound asleep when an arctic hare suddenly popped up over a ridge not 30 feet from the near est wolf. If a hare can display a look of utter consternation, this one did. It froze for a moment, then shot straight up the ridge. Only one wolf awoke to give halfhearted chase, but the adrenaline-charged hare easily outran its groggy pursuer. The idea of witnessing this little vignette from beginning to end in the north woods is just not conceivable. *The author's "At Home with the Arctic Wolf," with photographs by Jim Brandenburg, appeared in the May 1987 GEOGRAPHIC.