Inside the harsh lives of wolves living at the top of the world

Our writer spent 30 hours traveling with arctic wolves and gained a new appreciation for these predators of the tundra.

Wolves pick at the remains of a muskox. To get this image, photographer Ronan Donovan placed a camera trap inside the carcass. The pack returned to feed on and off for a month.

In the blue light of an early Arctic morning, seven wolves slid across a frozen pond, yipping and squealing and chasing a chunk of ice about the size of a hockey puck.

The pond was opalescent at that hour, a mirror of the universe, and the wolves also seemed otherworldly in their happiness. Back and forth across the pond they chased, four pups scrambling after the puck and three older wolves knocking them down, checking their little bodies into frozen grass at the shore. In my notebook, in letters made nearly illegible by my shivering, I wrote the word “goofy.”

The largest wolf, a yearling male, was a bully at 70 pounds or so. The smallest, the runt of that year’s litter, was hardly bigger than a throw pillow, her eyes lined in black. A pair of ravens sailed overhead, and apart from their jeering, there was no sound on the tundra but the voices of wolves and the click of claws on the ice. Eventually the puck skittered into the grass, and the largest pup chased it down and chomped it to pieces.

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