We were thrilled to spot this Himalayan wolf while driving up the Tanglang La pass in Ladakh. The Ladakhi friend we were with said he has seem them many times and he didn’t think it was such a big deal. When I looked online, I found that they are considered to be critically endangered, which surprised me in light of his comment. My friend is from a fairly remote village that is a few hours walk from the nearest road, so it may be that there is a pack that stays in the vicinity. This wolf is the only one I’ve seen in all the time I’ve stayed in Ladakh, but I stay near Leh, and I doubt they would approach such a populated area.
Until fairly recently, the Himalayan wolf was thought to be a subspecies of the Tibetan wolf or gray wolf. However, research on their mitochondrial DNA has proved them to be a completely distinct species, unrelated to dogs, as the grey wolves are. Himalayan wolves are found only in the high Himalayas ranging from Kashmir to Nepal, and into China.
Incidentally, based on the photos I could find, I would say that there is little doubt that this is really a Himalayan wolf. However, I’m not an expert and I could certainly be mistaken. Please contact me and let me know if I am.
These photos were shot from several hundred meters away with an 18x zoom. Altitude was around 16,000′. The interesting snow formation in the background of the first shot is the almost-melted remains of a snow formation known as penitentes or nieve penitentes. It’s only found at high altitudes.