Farewell to Denali, an ambassador wolf at the International Wolf Center

13-year-old gray wolf euthanized Saturday night after his condition deteriorated quickly

Contact: Chad Richardson, Communications Director
Office: 763-233-7132

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Denali, an ambassador wolf at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, was euthanized at approximately 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4.

The 13-year-old gray wolf was born in 2008 at the Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota. He came to the International Wolf Center with his littermate, Aidan.

Early reports on Saturday noted that Denali was very interactive and seemingly had no issues, but by Saturday evening that had changed. At about 7 p.m, a wolf care staff member noticed Denali’s gums were pale, his ears were cold and that he seemed dehydrated. Two additional wolf care staff members were quickly called in, including the Center’s longtime wolf curator, Lori Schmidt. As Denali’s condition deteriorated, the Center’s veterinarian, Dr. Kristine Woerheide, was also called in.

His condition continued to deteriorate and he was euthanized shortly thereafter. A necropsy was performed at the Ely Veterinary Clinic where Dr. Woerheide found a tumor on Denali’s liver that had ruptured. There were also calcifications throughout his lung lobes and a mass on his right atrium.

Tissue samples were collected and are being sent to a pathologist for further analysis.

“The benefit of working with socialized wolves is the trust that is developed between wolf care team members and the animals in our care,” Schmidt said. “This trust takes hours and hours to build during the critical bonding period as pups, but the benefits are never more important than those final moments when the hard decisions need to be made to end an animal’s suffering.  Denali’s last minutes were spent surrounded by the wolf care team, all of whom are dedicated to their task of caring for our ambassadors.

“He will be fondly remembered for his foreleg stabs, seeking attention from fellow packmates and staff doing wolf checks, as well as his bounding play-bows, when he was inviting anyone to chase him.”

With Denali’s passing, Grizzer, Denali’s 17-year-old packmate, again becomes the lone member of the Retired Pack, a position he has experienced in the past. In an effort to provide social contact to Grizzer, staff are working on providing a safe environment for face-to-face greetings with the wolves in the Center’s Exhibit Pack, including the 2021 pup, Rieka. Details will be shared on the Center’s wolf logs, webcams and upcoming webinars about the ongoing pack dynamics.

After 12 years in the Exhibit Pack, Denali joined the Center’s retirement pack in October 2020. In retirement, he joined Grizzer, a former packmate, and he adapted well to a calmer and more restful environment.

He and his packmates at the Center have educated tens of thousands of visitors at the Center’s exhibit in Ely, as well as thousands of people throughout the world through regular YouTube videos, wolf logs and webcams.

When Denali was born at the Wildlife Science Center, it was located in Forest Lake, Minnesota. The WSC has since relocated to Stacy and they were the source facility for Rieka, also a Northwestern/Rocky Mountain subspecies of gray wolf.

The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit wolf.org.