Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is quickly becoming known throughout the wolf world as the best place to photograph wolves at ground level, and at close range. Our spring Cloud Wolves of the Kaska Coast safaris in 2023 were our best ever, and the photos below are truly worth a thousand words.
The photos were captured by National Geographic photojournalist and Churchill Wild Director of Wolf Programs Jad Davenport, who also provides a story for each. The days were long, but the light at the end of the day resulted in some of the best wolf photos we’ve ever seen from Nanuk, for both Jad and the guests.
The pack is happy and healthy, and pups will soon be arriving! This bodes well for guests at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge this summer on our Arctic Discovery and Hudson Bay Odyssey, as seeing the wolf pups playing amongst themselves during the summer is one of the most joyful scenes you will ever witness.
The sun was low and planks of light pierced the black spruce. The rest of the pack rose and rallied, tails wagging, pups—full-grown now but still clumsy, big-eared clowns—rolling over and pawing at their big brothers and sisters. They all stretched out and howled for no more than a minute. Then, in single-file, they drifted off into the shadows of the forest.
He stayed behind for a moment and then turned and I knew, like me, he was watching the sunset. And then he was gone.
Back on the ice with the pack for the early 2023 field season with Churchill Wild. These guys had made a kill (most likely a moose cow and calf we later tracked down) and were resting out on the sand dunes at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, rolling in snow and washing the blood from their coats. After feeding—because their tummies are so full—many of the wolves slept outstretched (instead of their typical little balled-up forms). A lone honey-colored wolf has been hanging out in their territory, perhaps seeking to join the pack (a risky endeavor as wolf-on-wolf violence is the leading cause of wolf mortality after human hunting and trapping). They could have caught scent of her somewhere out on the frozen sea.
I remember reading about a study where schoolchildren who had never seen wolves before were asked to draw pictures of them. And in all their pictures—not surprisingly given our love of European fairytales—the teeth were huge. Then a wolf “ambassador” was brought in to meet the children and they were asked to draw wolves again. This time, the teeth were normal-sized but the feet—the paws—were huge. Wolves have massive, almost comically large, paws; they depend on their feet for their living.
I think for me, now, it’s their eyes that constantly draw my attention. They are such intelligent and sentient beings.
A beautiful way to end a long day of following the pack. When shooting on assignment color is one of the toughest variables to keep in mind. Geography and season have a powerful influence on the overall color tone of your story. It’s easy up in the Arctic, in winter, to make lots of blue and white and brown shots (see my previous wolves). But the art director is also going to ask for the rest of the color palette—the reds and yellows and oranges and greens. Fortunately the Arctic is blessed with extraordinary light. You just have to be very, very patient.
Follow Jad Davenport’s Facebook Page and Instagram page @jaddavenport for more photos, videos and stories from Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, and stay tuned for his YouTube channel, coming soon!