Wolf Sighting Index

a bar chart. the y axis is labelled "index" and has values from 10% to 60%. The x axis is labelled "year" and has values from 20 10 to 20 18. The chart indicates wolf sightings for each year were as follows: 45% in 2010, 21% in 2011, and 1% in 2019

NPS image

View the data series of wolf sightings from 1997 to 2019
Synopsis of 2019 Denali Park Road corridor wolf activity

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

The wolves that inhabit Denali face many natural challenges, such as weather and availability of prey, that may affect their behavior, where they travel and make 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. Harvest of wolves, particularly breeding animals, has the potential to decrease wolf numbers, influence social structure and reproduction, alter wolf behavior, and decrease opportunities for wolf viewing. Thus, even if harvest occurring outside of the park has little effect on larger-scale wolf population dynamics, it may still have significant effects on visitor experiences.

From 2000 until 2010, the State of Alaska prohibited wolf hunting and trapping in two areas bordering the park, the Stampede and Nenana Canyon Closed Areas, in order to protect two of the park’s three most-commonly viewed wolf packs. At the spring 2010 meeting of the Alaska Board of Game, the National Park Service (NPS) submitted a proposal to extend the eastern boundary of the Stampede Closed Area. Instead, the Board of Game decided to eliminate both closed areas and allow hunting and trapping wolves in all areas bordering the park. Efforts to reinstate a buffer continue.

Historically, 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.

The wolf sighting index is a measure of how often observers on westbound trips to Eielson Visitor Center saw a wolf in a given year. To maintain consistency across years, we limited this index to consider only trips by experienced observers (park employees and buses with data-logging computers). Although we believe that changes in this index are a good indicator of how overall chances of seeing a wolf might change over time, these rates should not be interpreted as a direct estimate of a visitor’s chances of seeing a wolf in any given year.

 
We also track reported wolf sightings in or around the park from visitors and area employees!

Sightings and photos of wolves help us identify new packs, note changes in pack size, track individuals through time, and are especially useful for keeping track of uncollared wolves. If you get a good look at one or more wolves anywhere in the park, please email us the following information:
  • The date and time of the sighting
  • The location of the sighting (include a milepost estimation if on the park road)
  • The number of wolves seen
  • The colors of wolves seen
  • If any wolves appeared collared
  • Whether you have photos of the wolves (see note, below)
  • Any other interesting information
Please note: When we respond, we'll ask if you have any photos of the sighting. High quality photos may be featured, with your permission and credited to you, in our annual wolf reports and other outreach material. Check out our annual wolf reports.
 

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755

Phone:

(907) 683-9532
A ranger is available 9 am—4 pm daily (except on major holidays). If you get to the voicemail, please leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we finish with the previous caller.

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