In 2020, the Greenland Wolf Research Program, 15th Field Season, will be working in Inglefield Land, Northwest Greenland, 78°30’N. There is no evidence known to us that this area is currently home to arctic wolves, but there are data going back over 100 years, indicating that Canadian wolves from nearby Ellesmere Island periodically disperse into Greenland across the sea ice of Smith Sound. More recently, in 2015-16, several wolves were shot in the nearby Qaanaaq district. Subsequently, a proposal was made by the home rule government to lift legal protection for wolves in certain areas.
The Program will: 1) Consult with local Greenlanders in the Qaanaaq district to gather information on wolf sightings and other relevant data, 2) conduct fieldwork in Inglefield Land to look for evidence of past and present activity by wolves, and 3) evaluate habitat suitability, including prey numbers and their distribution. The overall goal of this effort is to expand upon the long-term record to obtain a better understanding of the importance of this area to the exceedingly small number of arctic wolves that inhabit Greenland. Thus, we aim to improve upon the otherwise scarce information available for management decisions and conservation purposes.
The Program seeks other parties qualified to operate in this harsh environment regardless of sector (science, mineral resources, sports expeditions) for cost-sharing of joint logistical arrangements and other mutually beneficial cooperation in Inglefield Land during July-August 2020. Please contact us by December 31, 2019 if interested.
(Vi taler dansk – naturligvis!).
The Greenland Wolf Research Program is a long-term study of the ecology of arctic wolves in Greenland started in 1991. The Program has undertaken prior field seasons in North and Northeast Greenland, including 2 winter expeditions to Peary Land. Publications resulting from this research have appeared in the following peer-reviewed journals or proceedings: Arctic, Canadian Field-Naturalist, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Ecology and Conservation of Wolves in a Changing World, Polar Biology, Polar Record, Journal of Mammalogy, and Wildlife Biology. We gratefully acknowledge previous, logistical support from the Royal Danish Air Force, the Royal Danish Navy, the United States Air Force, and others.
Hidden behind a veritable fortress of ice, Inglefield Land is not an easy area to get into (and out of) despite its proximity to Qaanaaq - the logistical and administrative center in the region. Regular, commercial flights into Qaanaaq/Siorapaluk are not directly available for an additional charter flight leg over the ice barrier due to aircraft range-restrictions and lack of fuel depots in Inglefield Land. Air Greenland has advised that a helicopter charter will involve additional costs due to required ferry flights from Pituffik. Alternative transportation options into and out of Inglefield Land are uncertain at this time both in terms of availability, feasibility (payload), and reliability.
Inglefield Land is a particularly interesting area for a number of reasons other than its historical wolf presence. It is steeped in north polar exploration history and was the base area for a number of early American arctic explorers, e.g., Elisha Kent Kane in 1853-55, Isaac Hayes in 1860-61, part of the Charles Francis Hall expedition in 1872-73, and Donald B. MacMillan’s Crocker Land Expedition, 1913-17. Some of these men died in action and are buried there. In 1917, Danish arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen undertook his do-or-die, epic retreat on foot across Inglefield Land to secure a relief party for his starving, exhausted companions on the 2nd Thule Expedition. Significant paleoeskimo, Dorset, and Thule sites are also present. A variety of arctic wildlife can be observed there, including caribou and muskox. The area has no permanent human habitation, but hunters from the Qaanaaq district visit on subsistence hunts. Along the eastern border, the ice front of the Inland Ice has been described as rising perpendicularly to a height of 100 m (330 ft).
A trip into this area involves expedition-style planning and execution. Conditions on the ground are hard – the area is polar desert - and the terrain is rugged as can be seen in Google Earth. Visitors to this remote area must be entirely self-sufficient. There are no tourist cabins, no trails, no bridges across rivers, and no park rangers to give guidance or provide assistance. Risk of polar bear attack should be factored into expedition risk planning and risk mitigation. A visit to Inglefield Land does not require an access permit from the home rule government (but other permits may be required). Appropriate, safety-related components of a well-planned expedition include a large-caliber rifle carried by someone who has completed firearms safety training, an Iridium satellite phone with a service provider, a Personal Locator Beacon, and evacuation insurance in case of illness or injury. Weather conditions are the usual for North Greenland: Rapidly changing to a few degrees above freezing at short notice even at the height of summer, heavy fog that can curtail field operations for days, and violent gales that can destroy polar expedition-rated tents and leave you without a shelter. Weather-related delays are virtually inevitable.