Home   »   Wolf   »   Axel


Axel, along with his littermate Grayson, are arctic subspecies of the gray wolf species (Canis lupus) born in captivity at a facility in Canada. Axel may be distinguished by his lighter facial coloration, almond shaped eyes and somewhat slimmer face. As young adults, it may be difficult to distinguish specific characteristics until they reach maturity at 18 – 24 months of age. Arctic wolves’ native habitat is found in the northern regions of North America as well as along the eastern and northern shores of Greenland. There are several large islands that occupy this region including Ellsemere and Axel Hieberg islands. Axel’s name was selected in honor of the wolves that range on Axel Hieberg island.  This region is typically snow covered for most of the year, but a mid-June to mid-August thaw supports enough plant material to feed the arctic wolf’s prey: musk-ox, caribou and arctic hares.  


For more information on our ambassador wolves, watch extended wolf videos on the International Wolf Center’s YouTube Channel or enjoy a close-up of wolf behavior on our Wolf Watch Cams.

If you are interested in sponsoring Axel, please click here.







Recent Logs for Axel:

Axel is uncertain of Denali's selections

Axel- The Pack Is Changing

August 9th, 2018

Some of the behaviors that indicate a wolf is showing status is their tendency to mark with a Raised Leg Urination or RLU and when they carry their tail high above their back in what’s called a T-1 tail posture.   Axel has been displaying both, but since the retirement of Aidan, he’s had more resistance to his behavior from Boltz and Denali.  In this post’s photo, Axel was photographed on top of the pump housing during a weekly pack feeding.  Normally, he and Denali shared the carcass while the rest of the wolves waited.  On July 28th pack feeding, 3 days after Aidan was retired, Axel sat with his ears pricked and turned sideways, displaying a bit of intimidation as Denali and Boltz shared the carcass and kept him at bay.  We expect there will be more change in individual wolf alliances and subsequent dynamics before the pack decides on leadership, but for Axel, it appears to have taken him by surprise. 

Weight: 105

Axel – Webbed Feet

July 24th, 2018

Axel is climbing out of the pond after a summer enrichment program designed to keep the wolves cool during the warmest parts of the day.  These enrichment’s include items such as beaver tails and deer feet frozen in an ice block and thrown into the pond.  If you zoom in close you will notice the webbed front paw that aids wolves not only in swimming, but gaining traction in uneven terrain and helping walk on snowy conditions. 

Axel – T1 Tail

July 2nd, 2018

Axel sure keeps Denali young.  In this week’s photo, Axel is doing a ride-up behavior to Denali.  This is a great example of the difference between a T-1 tail posture over the back and a T-2 posture, forming a straight line from the back.  Both,  T-1 and T-2 postures may indicate arousal or excitement; It could be dominance, it could be social or it could be antagonistic threat, it is important to watch other indicators.  But, the T-2 or straight back tail is often a more focused posture associated with a predatory drive, meaning a bit less social response.  The wag of the tail may also indicate the intent of the interaction; the speed and tightness of the wag should be noted as well.  Some of the most social (and submissive) greetings are when the tail makes a full circle.  In Axel’s case, the T-1 tail is as rigid as a stick and with little movement, likely expressing an aggressive arousal.  As a 2-year old, he appears to have stabilized his weight at about 103 pounds.

Weight: 103

If you only saw their face, could you tell them apart?

Axel – Facial Characteristics

June 7th, 2018

This photo was taken in April and shows Axel and Grayson in full winter pelage, when identification of these brothers is relatively easy.  Grayson has a darker saddle that is prominently distinguished across his back.  But, shed out the undercoat that makes those darker guard hairs more prominent and add a little sun bleaching of the white hair and identification can become more challenging.  Once you spend some time observing pack dynamics, behaviors can be a method for identification.  But, for wolf care staff that deliver morning medications to 5 wolves, often inches apart from each other, they need to be keyed into the facial characteristics of each wolf.   Can you ID the different facial patterns of these two?  We have spoke of this past logs, but it’s always fun to test ourselves when we get a photo like this.  Thanks to Kelly Godfrey for capturing this photo at the Exhibit Pack greeting rock.  Showing a longer and more slender muzzle is Axel who is standing in front of the rock.  Showing a broader and more classic shaped muzzle is Grayson, lying on the the rock.  

Weight: 103.5

Axel squashing Denali while Grayson approaches with a T-1 tail

Axel – Active And Expressive

May 16th, 2018

This week’s photo displays a behavior easy to identify; we term it a “Squash” behavior.   One wolf literally sits on another wolf, squashing them to the ground.  This is typical of Axel; he is very expressive in his behaviors and very physical.  While this is likely a social interaction between Denali and Axel, you may notice Grayson is coming from behind with a high tail posture.  Axel and Denali seem to have a strong bond and are often observed wrestling, chasing and overall active behaviors.  This social bond may be paying off for Axel.  In the last few months, Denali has been favoring Axel at the Saturday evening carcass feedings, keeping Boltz and Grayson away from the carcass.  Grayson and Denali are a bit more contentious and certainly may impact future leadership roles. 

Staff monitor this closely by evaluating scat coloration and texture, which is influenced by the amount of meat in the digestive tract.  We also weigh the wolves, usually at the 2nd of the month that coincides with Axel and Grayson’s birthday.  

Tracking weights is an important part of pack management.  As noted in Axel’s chart, fluctuations in weight happens in winter, with some declines in weight likely due to more calorie output to keep warm.  Axel’s highest weight was in October 2017, when he weighed 110 pounds, now that winter is over, he is working his way back up to that weight. 


Date Wolf Weight in Pounds Weight change since last data Age 
10/2/2017 Axel 110.4 4.8 17 months
11/2/2017 Axel 106 -4.4 18 Months
12/2/2017 Axel  103.5 -2.5 19 months 
12/31/2018 Axel  101 -2.5 20 month 
2/2/2018 Axel  98 -3 21 Months
3/2/2018 Axel 98 0 22 Months
4/2/2018 Axel 100.5 2.5 23 Months 
4/30/2018 Axel 105.6 5.1 2 years

Weight: 105.6