Wolves are a member of the Canidae (dog) family and can look like a large husky dog. Adult males average about 35 - 40 kg. Females are smaller at about 30 - 35 kg.

Wolf colour varies from pure white to black, with accompanying shades of cream and brown. The most common colour is grey. Although all colours occur throughout their range, white is most common on the arctic islands. Grey and other darker shades are more common on the mainland. 

Wolves are still found on most of their traditional range in the Northwest Territories (NWT). Although relatively abundant, their exact numbers are unknown. 

Types of wolves in the NWT

There are three different groups of wolves in the NWT: Timber, Arctic and Tundra.

Timber wolf

Timber or "boreal" wolves living below the treeline or in the mountains depend mostly on non-migratory prey like moose, bison, caribou and deer. They maintain regular territories.

Boreal Wolf
Boreal Wolf

Arctic wolf

Arctic wolves live on the arctic islands and prey mostly on caribou, muskox and arctic hare.

Arctic wolf
Arctic wolf

Tundra wolf

Tundra or caribou wolves travel above and below the treeline on the mainland of the NWT.  They wolves depend largely on barren-ground caribou and muskoxen. They do not maintain regular territories.

Tundra wolf
Tundra wolf

Social structure

Wolves tend to form packs, which may contain from two to 16 members but four to seven is more common. Large groups of up to 30 - 40 wolves have been seen at times. A wolf pack will travel, hunt, breed, raise pups and, in most cases, maintain a certain area as their home territory. Pack members are generally close relatives, usually one set of parents, their pups and possibly one or two aunts or uncles. The social structure of a pack is complex and tightly knit, with each member knowing its own rank or position.


Wolf packs are on the move throughout the winter and travel many kilometres. They feed where they find prey and rest when they are tired or when extreme temperatures and storms cause them to seek refuge.

Three wolves


Wolf conflicts with humans are rare. Wolves are generally extremely wary of humans and not aggressive towards them by nature. If you encounter a wolf, know how to respond to prevent injury.



Wolves are classified as both a big game species and furbearer in the NWT. Residents are allowed to harvest any number of wolves in accordance with the number of tags held. Non-residents must hunt with a licenced outfitter and only in specific areas. General Hunting Licence holders may hunt during any season.