National Geographic: White Wolf

Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Jim Brandenburg

Less than 500 miles from

the North Pole

lies Canada's most distant frontier

Ellesmere island.

It takes a special kind of

animal to survive here.

This is one the arctic wolf.

These hunters of the high Arctic

have little fear of man.

They roam this frozen wilderness

beyond reach of the superstition,

hatred and mistrust we have

heaped upon their kind.

Now, these wolves and men have met

and the encounter has revealed some

of the truth about these animals' lives.

Unlike wolves in other parts

of the world,

these creatures live so far away

from towns and cities

that they have never been

hunted or persecuted.

Ellesmere is an island surrounded

by pack ice most of the year,

a harsh land about

the size of Nebraska.

Only someone with a passion for

wolves would dream of tracking

them into this desolate land.

One such person is photographer

Jim Brandenburg.

He has been here before,

on assignment for


Now the wolves have lured him back.

Wolves have always been a

favorite animal of mine.

And I suppose one of the reasons

they're my favorite animals is

because they're so intelligent

that intelligence makes it nearly

impossible to film them

in a more conventional place,

say in the forested areas.

And for some reason

these Arctic wolves

have got a quality about them

where they tolerated us very well,

and it became clear that

it would make a wonderful story.

The spring sunlight illuminates

a world released from

the long months of high Arctic winter.

The polar bears patrol once again,

but they are little threat

to the wolves here,

since they rarely move far

from the sea.

The wolves are more likely

to chase them,

according to Dave Mech,

a wolf biologist with

He came here with Jim Brandenburg

to observe the pack and its den.

It was a dream come true for me to

finally get to Ellesmere Island.

I had known about the wolves

there for about 20 years.

But I never thought I'd ever

have a chance to work with them.

Everywhere else in the world wolves

have been so persecuted that

they're extremely afraid of humans.

And once can't get close enough

to them to watch them.

The area is so remote they're

basically unafraid of humans.

For the first time,

Mech can watch from close up

as a wolf pays homage

to its pack leaders,

known as the

Alpha Male and the Alpha Female.

The hierarchy of the group

who dominates whom is reflected

in body language and actions.

By observing and analyzing

the wolves behavior,

scientists like Mech and understand the

social structure of the family unit.

To learn what I wanted

I knew I had to find the den,

The shelter where the wolves have

their pups for a couple of months

of the year in the summer.

There's only one such den in

about 1,000 square miles,

so it took a long time to find it.

Actually, I spent a solid week

searching for it and was elated

when I finally was able to locate it.

There's very few such suitable dens

around in this region

because of the pervasive permafrost

which prevents the wolves from digging.

Having found the den,

it was really clear to me

why the wolves had chosen the sight.

It was a beautiful rock cave at the

end of a long ridge overlooking

a wide valley with a stream

flowing down the middle.

And the wolves could look out in

every direction for many miles.

What Dave and Jim are about to

observe and film in the short

Arctic summer would give them

a unique experience.

They knew they had the possibility of

living in the midst of this wild pack,

almost becoming part of it.

They found themselves amazingly

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Barry Paine


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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "National Geographic: White Wolf" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 18 Sep. 2021. <>.

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