We saw no wolves yesterday from our observation point, so we are getting desperate to put out the second GPS/ARGOS collar. Only 3 more nights to try to find and collar a breeding female. We did see 11 muskoxen pass by, and we watched a wolf some 5 to 6 miles away across the fjord through the spotting scope. The wolf came within about 200 metres (656 feet) below some 40 to 50 arctic hares, which then all scrambled away to the top of a hill, leaving the poor wolf at the bottom!
We found this wolf while we were listening to a signal from the VHF radio transmitter that is on the male wolf's GPS/ARGOS collar. The photos show us holding the antenna while we are listening. However, we could not be certain that the wolf we saw through the scope was actually the collared male because it was so far away, but it was in the same area as where the signals came from.
Hope springs eternal, and we hope today is the day we put out the second collar.
Dave and Dean
In spite of their proximity to the North Pole, Ellesmere Island and neighboring Axel Heiberg Island support a bounty of flora and fauna. What appears to be an empty landscape is not. Plants range from the simple species such as lichens, fungi and mosses that have no roots to exquisite miniature flowering plants and larger varieties of breathtaking beauty. The simple plants are an important food source for a number of animals. Lichens are tiny and attach themselves to rock. Fungi have no roots, stems or leaves. They are important in northern ecosystems because one of their jobs is to break down dead organic matter. Mosses can grow on bare rocks; they also grow where there is water, such as around little streams formed by melting snow.
Shallow-rooted flowering plants grow on Ellesmere as well. They include the high arctic daisy, northern arnica, arctic poppy and saxifrage. The flower heads of arctic poppies follow the sun's passage across the sky just as sunflowers do! Purple saxifrage, the official territorial flower of Canada's third and newest territory (Nunavut) grows in the crevices and cracks of rocks. It is the first plant to bloom in the short arctic summer, and tiny hairs on its leaves help protect it from the dry winds that blow across the immense landscape.
Ellesmere is home to a variety of terrestrial animals including the formidable musk ox, Canis lupus arctos (the arctic wolf), the weasel and the arctic hare. Muskoxen live in herds, and their long hair make them look like they are wearing flowing skirts! The arctic hare is not the same thing as a rabbit or a snowshoe hare. Arctic hares are large (9-12 pounds) with short ears that are black-tipped during winter. Summer colors vary depending on how far north the hares live. In the far north, the hares are almost pure white even in the summer (see photo). Farther south, they are a brownish color on top with white underneath.The young (leverets) are born with fur and with their eyes open. Rabbits, on the other hand, are born without fur and with closed eyes. Hares eat willow leaves, shoots and bark as well as grasses and flowers. In spite of its small size and tiny, winsome face, the weasel is an efficient predator. With its sharp teeth and claws, its speed and its silent attack mode, it can quickly dispatch with lemmings and other animals even larger than it is!
Dean and Dave report they are happy to see people from Australia, India, Israel, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Denmark are reading the Ellesmere blog! This is proof that the International Wolf Center is "teaching the world about wolves!" Dave Mech and Dean Cluff, our good Canadian friend, have opened the door to the secret world of the High Arctic to thousands of interested followers!
More images can be viewed on our Flickr Photostream.