This photo has been making its rounds on the internet as a photo of an American soldier from World War II with his pet wolf pup. The location is given as “Alaska” and the year as “1943.”
Of course, this animal isn’t a pet wolf at all.
It’s an arctic fox. Arctic foxes are notoriously easy to tame, and it would make sense that a soldier serving during World War II would have tamed one.
My guess is this soldier was serving in the Aleutians. I’ll even go as far as to suggest that he was likely serving in the liberation of either Kiska or Attu in the far western Aleutians, which were actually invaded by Japanese forces in 1942. These islands were retaken in the spring of 1943, and US forces remained there for the remainder of the war.
Both of these islands were home to large numbers of arctic foxes, which were introduced by the Russian.
These foxes have been eradicated on both islands, but at the time, they were quite numerous. Arctic foxes became infamous for destroying colonies of sea birds that used the Aleutians for nest purposes.
For thousands of years the birds nested on the islands because they were free of terrestrial predators.
The Russians then introduced arctic foxes as fur-bearers.
For whatever reason, the Russians have tended to believe that it’s a good management practice to introduce fur-bearers anywhere they please, which is the reason Europeans have to worry about things like North American muskrats and Asian raccoon dogs.
It was not necessarily a Soviet practice.
It’s just been a Russian practice in general.
Of course, we Anglo-Saxons aren’t much better. We’ve introduced foxes to Australia because chasing wombats with hounds was never that great a sport.
At least the Russians introduced animals for fur purposes and not petty sport. Russians actually do use fur. In many parts of Russia, it’s impractical to keep sheep and the lack of good transportation infrastructure meant that cotton and wool textiles could not easily be distributed across the country. It was a better practice from a human perspective to keep large numbers of fur-bearing animals stocked in many different regions. That way, people would have access to good quality materials from which to make garments in order to keep warm. In Russia, fur was not murder. Fur was survival for many people living in isolated communities in very cold regions.
But although the introduction of fur-bearers makes sense from a human perspective, it can have disastrous ecological consequences.
The only part of the US “home territory” ever to have been invaded and occupied during World War II were these two islands in the Aleutians.
We liberated the islands of the invaders, and this soldier was likely involved in those liberations.
But the great irony is that having been involved in driving out those invaders, he decided to make friends with an invader that wound up nearly destroying the entire Aleutian Island nesting sea bird population.