Wild wolves in Denali

Denali is recognized as one of the best places in the world for people to see wolves in the wild.

Scroll down or click on the following topics to learn more about wolves in Denali:
Life of a Wolf, Wolf Surveys and Long-term Monitoring, Wolf Research, and Management Concerns about Wolves

Recent Updates

Wolf carrying caribou remains

A wolf carries off what remains of a caribou leg.

NPS Photo/ Ken Conger

Life of a Wolf

Five wolves travel single file over snow coverd land

A wolf pack travels single file in winter

NPS Photo

Wolf Surveys and Long-term Monitoring

Since 1986, biologists have monitored wolf populations in Denali. Wolves is one of 18 vital signs monitored in the park as part of the Central Alaska Network (CAKN) Inventory & Monitoring Program. For the past 25 years, biologists have monitored on average 95 wolves annually (north of the Alaska Range). Fall wolf densities have ranged from 2.7 to 9.8 wolves per 1000 square kilometers (7.0 to 25.3 wolves per 1000 square miles). However, wolf densities for the past three years have been the lowest in Denali since 1987. No obvious explanation for this current low density is apparent.

A wolf biologist take notes while a sedated wolf lays next to him.

Biologist gathers data about a wolf while she is temporarily sedated to be fitted with a GPS collar.

NPS Photo

Wolf Research in Denali

  • Wolf Viewing Project
    Bridget Borg, a wildlife biologist at Denali and a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is studying what factors may be influencing the viewability of wolves in Denali. Learn more about the wolf viewing project

  • Wolf Diets in Northwestern Denali
    Dr. Layne Adams, U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, and colleagues published their findings about salmon-eating wolves in an article in Ecological Applications (2010). Read their article,"Are inland wolf-ungulate systems influenced by marine subsidies of Pacific salmon?"

  • Interactions of Wolves and Coyotes
    Kelly Sivy, graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is currently exploring how coyote populations change in response to wolf presence, fluctuating prey (snowshoe hare and small mammals), and snowpack.
A mom wolf and pup lay about.

Female wolf with her pup near the Toklat River

NPS Photo/ Kes Woodward

Management Concerns about Wolves

Wolves are an important resource in Denali mentioned in the park's enabling legislation.

The wolves that inhabit Denali face many natural factors such as weather and availability of prey that may affect their behavior, where they travel and have their dens, and their population size. Human-related factors, such as human development or legal trapping outside the park boundary, may also affect wolves inhabiting Denali. The number of wolves in Denali has ranged from approximately 60 to 100. However, the story of wolves in Denali is not just about the numbers (population size), but also about the ability of people to view them.

Are wolf viewing opportunities at risk?

The park held a wolf program review in January 2013 in order to reflect on the legacy of wolf studies in Denali. The outcome of the review is a booklet of findings and recommendations to be used by Denali's new biological program manager to evaluate the wolf program and identify focus areas.

Wolf Program Review
(16-page color booklet, 19 MB)

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