Denali is recognized as one of the best places in the world for people to see wolves in the wild. Each year, tens of thousands of visitors see wolves along the Denali Park Road. More than anywhere else in Alaska, wolves in the eastern part of Denali provide significant benefits to tourism.
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.
In 2010, Denali National Park and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with the cooperation of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, began a study of wolf movements, wolf survival, and wolf viewing opportunities along the Denali Park Road. This study is investigating a variety of factors that might influence sightings of wolves on the park road including;
- Wolf abundance
- Harvest of wolves outside of park boundaries
- Den location
- Pack size and composition (adults, pups, etc.)
- Individual behavior
- Pack social structure
- Pack proximity to the road