Although arctic wolves are usually born all white, there is a difference between white animals and albinos. There has never been a reported case of a true albino wolf, although one is technically genetically possible. Wolves are usually born with black or dark brown fur, which lightens as they grow older.
Animals that are true albinos have melanocytes that do not produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Albino animals are often identifiable by their red or pink eyes; capillaries are visible in the eyes due to the lack of melanin in the irises. Because melanin protects skin from UV rays, many albino animals and humans suffer from photosensitivity and eye-related problems.
Although it is often dismissed as a random occurrence, albinism is a genetic trait that can be inherited from either parent. Research suggests that albinism occurs in most mammals approximately once in ever 10,000 births.
Albino animals are often disadvantaged in the wild due to their inability to blend in effectively with their surroundings. Lack of camouflage makes them more obvious to predators or prey. While few albinos survive in the wild, many fare much better in captivity. Due to their genetic abnormality, they are often prized as research subjects. Their abnormal coats also make them the target of some hunters.