Insular and disjunct distribution of the Arctic wolf in Greenland, 1978–1998
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Little research has been conducted on the spatial and temporal distribution of wolves in the High Arctic, and the processes that influence distributional patterns are not well understood. The present study addressed this information void in north and east Greenland by determining bi-seasonal distribution patterns and core areas based upon 303 sightings of wolves or their tracks during 1978–1998. The data suggested that this wolf population were predominantly distributed in semi-isolated patches in an insular and disjunct distribution. Evidence of wolf occurrence in some areas was so irregular that wolves should be considered absent in most years. Where such areas were clustered over several hundreds of kilometers, they collectively constituted areas of general wolf absence that could be considered gaps in distribution. There was no evidence that this population functioned in a mosaic of closely, interlocking pack territories similar to those reported in lower latitudes. The observed distributional pattern likely reflected the exceptionally impoverished and fragmented polar desert and semi-desert habitat that compelled wolves to adopt differing spatial distribution patterns relative to wolves in temperate areas. The broader scientific significance of this study is that, even in the most remote, vast, and uninhabited regions, it is possible to produce meaningful results on distributional patterns of rare, terrestrial carnivores that can serve as foundation for the next generation of testable hypotheses.
KeywordsArctic wolf Canis lupus arctos Distribution Greenland
In Greenland, many members of the Danish military provided me with details on sightings of wolves. In Denmark, geologists Peter Dawes, Tony Higgins, and John Peel of the Greenland and Denmark Geological Survey assisted me acquire wolf sightings made during geological expeditions. In Iceland, Sigurdur Adalsteinsson, Flugfelag Islands, and his pilots assisted with logistical arrangements to, from, and within Greenland. Frank Moerschel, Germany, and the late Dennis Carter, United Kingdom, accompanied me in the field. Two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments that improved the manuscript. I am grateful to them all for contributing to this research.
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