• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain

    Denali

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

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    The Park Road is currently open to Mile 3, Park Headquarters. Wintry conditions beyond that point prevent vehicle travel, though pedestrian travel is permitted. More »

Wolves

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


Learn about Wolf Ecology Basics (wolf packs, pups, and the role of wolves in an ecosystem).

Learn about Wolf Ecology Basics for Wolves in Denali (specific information for Denali wolves about diet, causes of mortality, and more). In development...please check back later.

Consult this chart giving Natural History Information about Wolves (and other large mammals).

Check out these slides that explain in more detail three Wolf Ecology Concepts ("Wolves kill moose," "Wolf packs defend territories," and "Alphas lead the pack"). PowerPoint is 1.9 MB.

 
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.

 
Wolf Survey Data

Spring (approx. 15 March) 1986-2014

Year Number of Packs Monitored
Total Wolves in Packs Monitored
Mean Pack Size
Combined Area of Monitored Packs (square KM)
Estimated Density: Wolves / 1000 square KM
Population Estimate Inside the Park*
1986 4 26 6.5 7,380 3.523 61
1987 8 37 4.6 12,125 3.052 53
1988 14 69 4.9 15,355 4.494 78
1989 13 98 7.5 16,810 5.830 101
1990 10 106 10.6 13,930 7.609 131
1991 13 111 8.5 14,275 7.776 134
1992 15 103 6.9 13,620 7.562 131
1993 12 68 5.7 9,900 6.869 119
1994 10 61 6.1 11,145 5.473 95
1995 12 59 4.9 12,120 4.868 84
1996 11 69 6.3 12,640 5.459 94
1997 11 78 7.1 13,080 5.963 103
1998 12 61 5.1 13,121 4.649 80
1999 13 69 5.3 12,699 5.433 94
2000 17 71 4.2 14,378 4.938 85
2001 16 87 5.4 13,802 6.303 109
2002 15 73 4.9 13,026 5.604 97
2003 18 75 4.2 11,682 6.420 111
2004 14 78 5.6 16,061 4.856
84
2005 15 66 4.4 14,630
4.511
78
2006 15 103 6.9 15,367 6.703
116
2007 16 93 5.8 17,439 5.333
92
2008 20 99 5.0 17,757
5.575
96
2009 16 65 4.1 16,607 3.914
68
2010 12 59 4.9 17,061 3.458 60
2011 10 71 7.1 17,994
3.946 68
2012 10 70 7.0 18,340
3.817 66
2013 11 49 4.5 15,473 3.187 55
2014 10 51 5.1 17,640 2.891 50

 
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.

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):
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? (fact sheet)

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)


Did You Know?

close view of Arnica, a small yellow flower

Over 650 species of flowering plants as well as many species of mosses, lichens, fungi, algae, and others grace the slopes and valleys of Denali.