July 11, 2001

The final update from the High Arctic.

Mech and Medwid: No more wolf sign, but four new musk ox carcasses for a total of 17 for the trip, most of them starved. On a more positive note we did see three groups totaling 16 including one calf in an area where once you could see over 100. No new arctic hares seen.

We did find a spectacular eyrie of a gyrfalcon located in a rocky outcropping overlooking a large river basin. The "nest" -actually a rocky ledge-looked like it had been used for an extremely long period of time.

We're flying out tomorrow to Resolute Bay and on Saturday from there to Edmonton. On Sunday we return home.

Thanks for looking in on our progress as we searched to find Explorer. We can only hope that some day the prey population will increase and a new wolf pack will again inhabit this area.

July 09, 2001

No new wolf sign. Odds of finding Explorer slim.

Mech and Medwid: We found 4 new starved musk ox carcasses; two calves and two adults. Saw a herd of seven yesterday and a herd of 6 today plus a single. The total for the trip is about 22 live and 13 dead. Total arctic hares seen is 8. So not much for the wolves to eat. No new wolf sign.

It is clear that Explorer has left the area or died over winter. We may never find out which.

On an exploratory hike today we had the unusual experience of having mosquitoes swarming around us at the same time a brief snow shower fell. Some alpine meadows are greening up so there will be ample food for the musk oxen that are left.

We are beginning to make preparations for returning to Minnesota and will be leaving the study area at the end of the week. Further updates will be forthcoming.

July 07, 2001

Some wolf tracks found. More investigation warranted.

Mech and Medwid: Yesterday we found four additional musk oxen carcasses with numerous old and new wolf tracks; these were located some 10 to 15 miles from the traditional den. We will try to investigate the area further in the next few days. Two of the carcasses were eaten by wolves and the other two had apparently died of starvation and decomposed and were only recently found by wolves.

Dave Mech examining a dead musk ox for bone fat content; this appears to have been an extremely severe winter, snow remaining in valleys that Dave has not seen in 15 years of research here.
Yesterday morning we awoke to sunny skies and relatively warm temperatures and mosquitoes! But in an hour or so the skies clouded over bringing temperatures down and also doing in the mosquitoes at least for the moment. Arctic foxes continue to visit camp daily and we spotted one fox pup.

The sun has been out all day today. We've seen 5 arctic hares in a hike of 5 miles today. Our vantage points gave us a view of 10 to 20 square miles with no other sightings of wildlife.

July 05, 2001

No sign of Explorer yet. Hare and Musk Oxen scarce too - wolves may be elsewhere in the thousand square miles considered their territory.

Mech and Medwid: After spending 4 and a half days of searching for wolf track/droppings we have begun to become pessimistic about finding Explorer. We have checked all the usual travel routes along the creek bottoms and other areas and have found only the sign of one wandering wolf that shows signs of not being familiar with the area. For example it passed within 1/8th to 1/4 mile of two intact musk ox carcasses without even checking them, as if it did not know they were there. We believe that if Explorer and her mate had been frequenting this area as they usually do at this time of the year, they would have found the carcasses and fed on them. However their territory covers a thousand square miles or more and maybe they are elsewhere in it. We have not seen any more hares than the one reported earlier, and not many more musk oxen so this may explain the wolves' absence. During this past winter the snow was particular deep and seems to have had a very detrimental effect on the prey. We have now found a total of 5 musk ox carcasses. Two of them were eaten by wolves in fall or winter but the other three died in late winter or spring and are still intact. Samples of the bone marrow fat on two of the three indicate that they starved to death.

This is an especially cold year. Last night almost broke the low temperature record for the day and it snowed in camp last night and this morning. Pockets of last winter's snow remain throughout the area with fresh snow lingering in the higher elevations.

There appears to be a greater than usual number of arctic foxes in the area and one has been a regular visitor to camp.

Despite the colder than normal temperatures the various arctic flowers bloom brightly in widely scattered patches. We discovered an outcropping with petrified wood from trees that lived some 50 million years ago when the climate was vastly warmer. Fossils of marine organisms abound here. Signing off......

July 03, 2001

Very little wolf sign so far, but still a large area to check.

Mech and Medwid: Fresh snow has covered the nearby mountains. Temperatures are in the low 40's with strong winds producing a windchill that requires us to dress like Minnesota in January.

Very little wolf sign; track of one wolf that appeared to be about a week old; no sign of any at any of the dens we've checked; we still have a large area to check; very few musk oxen or arctic hares seen. It appears that the population of both species are at a 15 year low. We saw polar bear tracks that appeared quite recent-within the last few weeks. We've seen several arctic foxes; red knots at two nests with eggs; lots of long-tailed jaegers; a raven, arctic terns, snow buntings; and ruddy turnstones.

Our camp consists of two tents and spectacular views of the fjord. Rain has been frequent although it appears to be clearing as we write. Despite the feel of winter many plants are in full bloom-willow, dryas, arctic poppy, heather, and purple saxifrage are all adding touches of bright color.

Happy Fourth of July to all!

July 02, 2001

An empty den, disappointing but not discouraging.

Mech and Medwid- We travelled out to the traditional den this evening and found it unoccupied. Although a big disappointment this does not necessarily mean that the wolves aren't around or they don't have pups; they could have had them elsewhere. We will begin to start searching for them in other places later today. We did see an arctic fox, two other groups of musk oxen from the ground and found the remains of one eaten by wolves this past winter.

July 01, 2001

Mech and Medwid were able to fly further into the arctic today, near the home of the weather station that is closest to the North Pole. 

Mech and Medwid: Our last night in Resolute brought snow flurries; for dinner we enjoyed musk ox stew-it was great! Musk oxen is an important for food source for the Inuit.

We arrived at our base today; just missing a big snowstorm which has made things quite muddy. En route from Resolute we saw only 22 musk oxen from the air in over a hundred square miles-the number of musk oxen is lower than we had anticipated. The fjord is still frozen in; a polar bear was seen here about two weeks ago. There have been a few wolf sightings in the last few weeks giving us hope that we may see them for ourselves.

June 30, 2001

L. David Mech and Walter Medwid are currently in Resolute and awaiting information on their flight out that will take them approximately 300 miles further north (80 degrees N. latitude) -hopefully tomorrow a.m.

Medwid: The weather is overcast in Resolute (a community of 200 Inuit people) on Cornwallis Island; light drizzle; temperature in the upper 30's/low 40's. We're overlooking Resolute Bay which is still frozen. The snow cover is about 10% in the surrounding area. We're staying at an Inuit lodge called Qausuitttuq, but are hoping to fly out tomorrow am. We did a quick tour of the village this afternoon and saw that the Inuit have returned from a hunt and taken a dozen seals.

June 29, 2001

The High Arctic: 2001

The first Notes from the Field will cover wolf expert L. David Mech and International Wolf Center Executive Director Walter Medwid as they make their way to within 600 miles of the North Pole. They are in search of any remaining members of the High Arctic wolf pack that Mech has studied for 15 years. We will keep you posted on their excursion.

The High Arctic pack includes the wolves that Mech first befriended in 1986 and has lived with for part of each summer since then (except 1999). The only pack in the world that anyone has lived this close to for so long, it has yielded much valuable information. Mech first reported on this pack in the May 1987 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Magazine, and this was followed with the National Geographic Society's Explorer TV documentary "White Wolf" ("Ice Pack" in Eurasia), and Voyageur Press's books "The Arctic Wolf: Living with the Pack," " Wolves of the High Arctic" and "The Arctic Wolf: Ten Years with the Pack."

As of summer 2000, only one of this line of wolves was left, "Explorer," a female born in 1992, who has always exhibited great curiosity. In 2000, she had a mate from some distant area but bore no pups.

Learning whether Explorer still lives and whether she produced pups this year is the object of the current expedition. In addition, Mech and Medwid will try to locate as many wolf prey - musk-oxen, arctic hares, and Peary caribou - as they can. This will allow the men to determine what kind of food supply exists for the wolves in the area.

The men will leave Minnesota on June 29 to fly to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, then on to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories and Resolute Bay, an Inuit village on Cornwallis Island, Nunavut on June 30 (75 degrees N. Latitude). After that, the timing of the last leg of this trip to 80 degrees N. Latitude in the High Arctic is open, as they leave the world of scheduled flights.

Keep watch in this space for the progress and details of this adventure to see whether they will find Explorer, the last remaining wolf in her famous line.
Photos can be viewed at:

Further background info at