Wolves

 
closeup of a wolf

NPS Photo / Ken Conger

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

Recent Updates

Wolves in the News
  • Media coverage of our paper looking at impacts of breeder loss on wolf packs and populations (Borg et al. 2015. Journal of Animal Ecology)
  • Nature World News: Wolf Populations are Unfazed by Individual Breeder Deaths
  • Red Orbit: Loss Of A Breeding Wolf Can Be Devastating, But Does Not Always Spell Doom For The Pack
  • KUAC Public Radio: Study Shows Single Wolf Death Can Impact Entire Pack
  • Science Codex, Phys.org: Wolf mother deaths threaten pack survival but not population
 

Life of a Wolf

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

Natural History Information for Wolves in Denali
Habitat Food Reproduction Weight, Size, Age Other Factors
Widespread; territorial, but may make long forays in winter. Carnivorous. Moose, caribou, sheep, rodents, hares, beaver, birds, carrion. Reproductive at 2 years old.

Breeding season is February—March.

Gestation lasts 63 days

Litter size is 2 to 10 pups (average of 5), born in May.
Adult males weigh 76—130 lbs (average 105 lbs).

Adult females weigh 70—107 lbs (average 88 lbs).

Generally stand 2.5 feet tall at the shoulders.

Live up to 12 years.
Individual color varies from black to white, with gray the most common.

Territories average 200-600 square miles per pack.

Average pack size is 4.5 wolves.

 

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 Research in Denali
 
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)
 

Further Reading

Interested in more information? Check out the Science and Scholarship Resources page to find more recommended resources about wolves and other research topics from the park.

 
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Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755

Phone:

(907) 683-9532

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