December 30, 2009

On Axel again.

Since our last (Dec. 15) post of Brutus’s pack’s detailed movements, the pack covered its usual area on Ellesmere from Nov. 22 through Dec. 8. The pack visited the weather station on Dec. 8. From the station, the wolves headed north and then cut across Eureka Sound westward to Axel Heiberg Island again on Dec. 9, where they stayed for about a week. At some of the Axel locations they remained for 2 or more times, including some of the locations visited earlier. This is a pretty good indication that they killed muskoxen there. Then on Dec. 15, the pack cut back eastward across the fiord and passed by the weather station. The station staff photographed them and estimated there were 23-25 members in the pack (see photos). It is becoming ever clearer that the pack has taken advantage of the fiord’s freezing to extend its territory onto northwestern Alex Heiberg. It will be interesting now to see how many more times the wolves visit Axel and when in early summer they stop using it because of thawing.

In this second photo of Gaudet’s the wolf on the left still sports facial blood from sticking his head into a recent muskox kill.

Although not sharp, this photo from Al Gaudet, Officer in Charge of the Eureka Weather Station documents for us that on December 15 Brutus was traveling with his pack, as expected. The weather station folks estimated that the pack included 23-25 wolves on this visit.


  1. I thought a pack was usually about 7-10 wolves, even in the arctic? This one sounds awfully big! But I am following the travels of Brutus and his pack very faithfully!

  2. Ohh...interesting. Nice pictures of the pack too.

  3. I read a short article, in a daily newspaper, about the Brutus project,
    I find it quite a fascinating and I'm thankful that I can keep updated on your website.

    thank you,

    stay warm and dry,


    Paul Boisvert

  4. Anne,
    Your are correct that 7-10 is the usual size of most packs, but sizes vary between 2 and over 30.


  5. Carissa:

    I know some packs are bigger than 7-10, but my understanding, FWIW is that such large packs often break up into more "normal-sized" ones(some of them split off and find another territory). In any case, as I said, I'm following the movements of the Brutus pack rather faithfully, and comments on this pack, and news of other wolf packs, can sometimes be found on my blog The Writer's Daily Grind at:

    My blog, btw, contains material related to some of the books I'm writing, and one of them has wolves appearing in it occasionally.
    Anne G

  6. Anne,
    Sometimes large packs do temporarily split up to hunt, but not always.

    Also sometimes large packs split permanently into separate breeding packs with separate territories. Other times, individual members disperse from the pack as they mature.


  7. Dave:

    I wasn't so much talking about wolf packs splitting up to hunt. I know they sometimes do that. I was thinking that when wolf packs get that large, they tend to split into something closer to the 7-10 range. I read one account where a potential alpha female broke off from a much smaller pack and several pack members followed her, as I understand it. Then there is the whole thing of "dispersers" v. "abiders" in a pack, which you alluded to, in which a "disperser" will go off on its own to try to find a territory and a mate. This is very risky for the "disperser", but apparently these things happen.

  8. Anne,

    Yes, large wolf packs do sometimes split, with each new pack maintaining its own territory. Dispersal, however, is not just common, but almost every young wolf disperses from its natal pack. They then search for a new area and mate, and produce their own pack.


  9. Carissa:

    My understanding is, some young wolves strike out on their own and try to find a new territory and a mate and found a pack. Others apparently stay with the pack. But I could be wrong on this.

  10. Hi,
    I'm Sandro, from Italy,
    and I was wondering whether You've got any ideas concerning the kin relationships between all these 23-25 pack members.
    You're sharing with a lot of interested people al around the world such precious informations: thank for that, too!

  11. Sandro:

    I'm guessing they're probably all related, one way or another. This pack probably started out as a more ordinary-sized 7-10 number pack; conditions might have been good(for an arctic island) for several years, allowing the pack to get larger. Of course, those who are actually studying this pack will probably be able to provide more accurate information. Mine is just an "educated guess".

  12. Sandro,
    As is usual in most packs, this pack should contain a pair of adults and
    their offspring from the past 1-3 years. But, it could also include a
    second pair of breeding adults and their offspring. The second pair would usually include a daughter of the main pair.