Famed Denali Wolf Pack Down To Lone Wolf After Hunter Kills Gray Male

The famed Denali National Park and Preserve wolf pack is now down to one lone wolf after a hunter killed her mate when he wandered just outside of the park.  Now, rangers are hoping that the lone black female will have pups, but environmentalists are again calling for the end of wolf hunting, particularly just outside of the park.  She is all that remains of the East Fork pack.  Last year, hunters legally killed a pregnant female and a male. It is incredible that hunting is allowed around such a dwindling and important population, but global calls for the state to curtail hunting outside of the park have been rebuffed.

The male had a radio tracker but hunters looked to be on state lands just outside of the federal park.  We will not know if the last survivor will have pups until early July.  (I will be hiking in the area around that time!)

Denali National Park is home to nine wolf packs, including the Toklat or East Fork pack.  They are a major draw for tourists and an iconic symbol of Alaska.  The East Fork pack has dwindled in the past two years from 14 members.

Due to the refusal of the state to stop the hunting of these magnificent animals, the female is all that remains.  So, to allow a single hunter the joy of shooting a wolf, we could all lose the opportunity of seeing wolves in the wild in this area.  I have long supported hunters in many areas, but there needs to be responsible and balanced rules.

46 thoughts on “Famed Denali Wolf Pack Down To Lone Wolf After Hunter Kills Gray Male”

  1. steveg:

    “I’m surprised you think black bears are a concern. They’re extremely skiddish in the Sierra unless they have your food and you’re trying to convince them that it’s yours.”

    You would think so, right? But which species is the one people think is so cute and cuddly that they feed it? And then when a hiker walks by with a pack stuffed full of food, the bear views him as a defective Pez dispenser he’s got to shake really hard to make the candy fall out. A bear can run 50 ft/second, which is twice as fast as us. But luckily they are sprinters who tire easily. Wild black bears are very skittish. Black bears that have been fed and are acclimated to people are dangerous. And a hungry bear of any species is dangerous, although black bear attacks are really rare.

    The most common problem with black bears is that they wreck everything in their quest for food – gardens, chicken coops, all your chickens, and anything else between them and food.

    On the other hand, a startled grizzly is way more apt to get pissed and charge than the more shy black bear. A threat display to make you back off makes lots of noise, with huffing and slapping the ground. A bear that’s stalking you is silent, and often approaches from behind. (Recall Prof Turley’s post on the hiker that was killed by a black bear.) Bears are omnivores, and meat only makes up a small part of their diet. But when their environment does not do well – fish supplies, poor berry set, you’ll have hungry bears.

    Mountain lions are more dangerous than black bears, by far. I’ve had a run in with one. It wasn’t scared of me at all. I stupidly thought it had been a Great Dane crossing the dirt road and went to fetch it. Even completely wild, never been fed by people, they have zero fear of humans. And unlike a grizzly, you can’t hope that a mountain lion is merely threatening you because he’s pissed. It might have been the same one that tried to bring down one of the horses where I was staying. I was fine, but had the distinct impression that was because it allowed me to leave. I’ve known someone pinned in their house by a mountain lion. Had a neighbor whose dog was taken right next to him. And they are so stealthy you’ll never know they are there. When I saw that mountain lion, I was close enough to a trail to see mountain bikers sailing by, oblivious to the fact that a huge mountain lion was right there.


    That TA I mentioned was studying wolves in Alaska. They had a problem at first, because they would tranq the wolf, who would run off and hide. They couldn’t find it before it woke up and took off. So they tried leg traps that had been modified so it would only grip them. A trapper told them to take a forked stick and put it on the back of their necks, like a dominant wolf. Sure enough, they would roll over and expect to die. The trapper said that he’d clubbed wolves to death that were in traps (I am cussing in my mind at this moment), and they would not fight back. Sure enough, after all their time in the bush, no one had any aggressive encounters with the wolves they were studying. In fact, there was a wolf den that was right next to a campground. the campers had no idea. But when the wolves moved, the researchers discovered all sorts of toys for the pups – chewed shoes, balls, all stuff the campers had no idea were getting stolen at night.

    Wolves are naturally very shy of people, and attacks are incredibly rare.

    On the other hand, wolf/coyote hybrids are becoming more common, and they are fertile, unlike most hybrids. They have had some troubling encounters with humans. I think they call them a “coywolf” now. The concern is that they might have the instinct to melt into the background of human development without the coyote’s talent for actually pulling it off. Coyotes live much closer to people than wolves. They’re watching it, and it will hopefully be found to be no cause for concern.

  2. There is no good reason to kill wolves in the wild, until they become too numerous and their numbers pose a threat to humans. From what I have read, there are almost NO documented wolf attacks on humans. The same cannot be said of cougars, which I AM in favor of hunting in CA where they are a problem. The ranchers who lose some of their livestock have ample solutions from thousands of years of history. They are called SHEPHERDS! Just because they are too cheap to hire them or don’t care enough to get guard dogs does NOT justify killing off the predators so that they can make the rest of us PAY for their greed and laziness. The guy who shot this wolf should be prosecuted, but given the state of Alaska’s need to kill things that isn’t going to happen. I could understand culling the numbers, but to use aerial hunting shows that the wolves are NOT so numerous that they are a threat.

  3. Karen, I’ve been to every state but Oregon and Hawaii. Hope to check those 2 off in the next year or two.

  4. Paul – it’s crazy how fast a grizzly can be when they charge. They’re so beautiful when they are laid back and seen from a distance, way, way far away though.

    It is relevant to ask why the hunter killed the wolf, such as was he simply hunting for a pelt or was the wolf going after cattle. I come from the position that there are methods that have worked to greatly reduce predation on cattle, so shooting wolves is only a last resort. When ecologists work with ranchers, instead of against them, they can often achieve results both sides are happy with.

    I disagree with the other motivations people give for hunting wolves, such as competing for elk. The wolves and us target different animals. And we are now learning how vital they are for the entire ecosystem, even affecting fisheries. They have some aspects of a keystone species in addition to close to an apex predator. Native Americans continue their cultural traditions, including hunting for fur, but otherwise, I don’t get the appeal. It’s a waste of life to kill an animal merely for its decorative skin.

    Nick – thanks. And Montana is lovely. Wyoming, too. Have you been there?

  5. Karen: Great post. Thanks. There’s been talk about reintroducing brown bears to the Sierra. Of course, I’d welcome it, but I doubt there’s enough to eat up there and they’d eventually and out of necessity be heading west down into the Central Valley and trouble. I’m surprised you think black bears are a concern. They’re extremely skiddish in the Sierra unless they have your food and you’re trying to convince them that it’s yours.

    Paul writes, “Still, if that East Fork group is important, they will introduce a male.” Not so true. Wildlife biology is more about natural progression. If there were no more wolves per se, they’d likely introduce a breeding pair, but I’d be very surprised if the Forest Service introduces the last female of the East Fork pack to a male from another breeding line. They’ll not redirect her life and choices.

  6. Paul, Glacier is on my short list. I was in your home state of Montana last week. Came up to Bozeman via Idaho and then 90 to 94. Spent a night in Bozeman. Montana is one of my favorites.

    1. Nick – if you go to Glacier take your passport. You will want to cross into Canada. Most of the glaciers are there.

  7. Karen, Great comments. Thanks for the info. I’ve been to many National Parks in this great country. Denali is right up there w/ Bryce, Zion, Yellowstone. Saw a grizzly up close. I was in a vehicle. There’s something visceral seeing an animal that is the top of the food chain. Quite laid back they are.

    1. Nick – you haven’t been to Glacier? Grizzlies are only laid back at a distance. And they are fast as hell.

  8. Wolves are important & have a better nose than German Shepherd. Alot of Departments are working these Smart & Loving dog family animals.Those in the Wild have an important job as well. This is very sad who ever Killed the male.They should be Fine & go to Jail.I feel very bad,sad for the rest of the pack😞I am IndianPonie2. My family goes back to the 12th Century, for real. In California. Its very sad that this was done.There beautiful wild or domestic (good working & pet .Very very sad.

  9. What Justice Holmes said.

    The joy of killing seems to occur with a sub-species of humans. Most humans abhor killing and abhor people who do it. But a small population thrive on it, lust to kill, live to kill. It’s seems to be a learned behavior as so many of that sup-species teach their children, at a very young age, to enjoy killing. Those children seem to receive two competing messages: It’s good to enjoy killing, and…. killing is wrong. Sadly, many of them choose the first and ignore the latter as to both animals and other human beings – in those cases where they will not be negatively sanctioned.

  10. Paul is a contrarian. Regardless of the position or how ludicrous his response, Paul will always post something contrary to the popular or general gist.

    1. issac – I am proud to be a contrarian, however I deny having ludicrous opinions.

  11. Give republican states a choice between species extermination and trophy hunting and trophy hunting wins all the time.

  12. Seems like Paul Schulte ought to re-read the first post by Karen or maybe he does not want to understand logic.

  13. Wolves are apex predators. Yes, they look like dogs, but they are not. When they get outside the park they kill the livestock of farmers and ranchers in the immediate area. They have been known to attack people.
    Turley fails to mention why the hunter killed the wolf. Still, if that East Fork group is important, they will introduce a male.

  14. The joy of killing? What a concept. Hunting for food I understand but hunting for the joy of killing is something I find disturbing.

  15. Send in wonder dog, Yukon King & Sergeant Preston. Law & order shall prevail.

  16. The article does not state which “state” the park is located in. We are talking about States Rights here. This business of the federal government intruding on States Rights is outrageous. A hunter in Alabama should be able to shoot some lone wolf and not have some federale come down on him. Maybe it is time that we secede from the Union. The commentor just above does have a good point. A wolf has more value as a tourist attraction than a pelt. So why are humans killing wolves anyway. Why can the state where this happened not bust this guy for killing a precious animal?

  17. Oh, that’s so sad. The East Fork Pack has been continuously studied since the 1930s, a record. The pack was wiped out by a combination of staying into heavily hunted land, and parvovirus.


    There is still a strong market for fur in Alaska. And the Native Americans have a long history and culture of use for fur.

    But I think the wolves are far more valuable as tourist attractions than a pelt.

  18. It is very difficult for a lone wolf to successfully raise pups alone. They are pack hunters. Without at least one companion, she cannot bring down big game, and will have to find sufficient mice and rabbits to feed her litter. And she will have no babysitter to keep them protected while she’s out hunting. Whole litters have been wiped out when a predator discovers them alone.

    It’s a very sad situation.

    Killing wolves disrupts the entire ecosystem.

    I think this is the correct video about how reintroducing the wolf improved Yosemite’s ecosystem. As you know, I don’t have enough bandwidth to watch videos at the house.



    Wolves and human hunters exert very different pressures on herds. Human hunters, if given the choice, will choose the healthiest, best specimen to harvest. Wolves bring down the very young, very old, sick, and the weak. Wolf predation keeps the herd healthy. The wisest animals continue and pass on their DNA. Human hunting weakens herds, where the best specimens are removed. (See trophy hunting vs subsistence hunting where they just get any healthy animal.)

    And here is another issue with hunting adjacent to national parks. I recall in college my TA told us how people who lived outside of a national park felt really bad for the deer who struggled to find food during the winter. So they started leaving out bales of hay at their property…outside the park. That drew all the deer out of the park, which drew the wolves out after them, where it was legal to hunt them. The wolves were wiped out completely. And the deer, with the additional food and complete lack of predators, had a population explosion. They became overpopulated and then starved when there wasn’t enough food, and they had become nuisance in the neighborhoods that drew them. It was a mess.

    It can be difficult to ranch with wolf populations. Wolves prey on calves and even coyotes can chew the tails right off the calves, attracted by the blood of birth. However, there are at least 5 good livestock guardian dog breeds bred expressly for the purpose of protecting livestock from wolves. Plus donkeys are very popular among ranchers, as they have an innate hatred for wolves and coyotes (and dogs if they are not socialized.) A donkey will actually attack a coyote on sight. Even the mini donkeys do it. They also have dogs specially trained to harass bear that are becoming a nuisance, to make them wary of people again so they don’t get shot. If you’re going to live and ranch near wilderness areas, then you have to work out how to protect your stock (and your pets and your kids) without wiping out entire species that lived there.

    I live next door, literally, to a coyote denning site they use every year. My hen house is velociraptor proof, I only let my hens out to range in my backyard when my cattle dog is with them, and my big dogs protect my little dogs. And I am responsible for watching my kid. We’ve lived here for years and had no problems. But I see coyotes all the time hit by cars, and I read about them getting poisoned or shot. The average lifespan of a coyote in my area is about 2 years, and the vast majority of predators, including raptors, test positive for rodent poison. Many of them die from it.

    You can coexist with most predators, although I have to admit that grizzlies and black bear would be a lot harder. But they’re out of my range of experience. And of course mountain lions are dangerous because you typically don’t see them until you’re on top of them (which really sucks, trust me.)

    Other than protecting livestock from a persistent predator, or an overpopulation of predators, I cannot understand why people shoot predators. I can’t stand killing an animal for its fur, or taxidermy, or just because. You kill an animal that’s a threat, or for food, but that’s about it, in my humble opinion.

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