Aidan and Denali were born on April 27, 2008 and joined the Exhibit Pack on August 4th, 2008. The 2008 pup introduction was very unique for the Center as it was the first time that our Exhibit pack contained three subspecies of the gray wolf and three age groups-the arctic wolves (Canis lupus arctos) born in 2000, Great Plains wolves (Canis lupus nubilus) born in 2004 and Rocky Mountain wolves (Canis lupus occidentalis) born in 2008.
Denali was fairly immune to dominance rank order. He was more prone to social engagement and avoided interactions that related to dominance. He was encouraged to be more dominant by the 2nd ranking male, Grizzer, who allowed Denali to readily take food or possessions without any sign of threat display. By the time Denali turned two years of age, he was always very social, but also very testing. Grizzer attempted to assert some rank over Denali, but starting at 2 years of age wasn’t very effective.
In July 2010, the pack leader, Shadow an arctic wolf born in 2000, was retired which essentially left no leadership in the pack. In 2011, we had a tragic injury to Maya, the dominant female and littermate to Grizzer that resulted in her euthanasia and prompted the decision to retire Grizzer. Without Grizzer’s limits, Denali was looking for an opportunity to assert his rank and did so to both the 2012 and 2016 pup litters. He was especially focused on Grayson, an arctic pup introduced to the Exhibit in August 2016. This focus on Grayson ultimately led to Denali’s retirement. Denali’s size and tendency to dominate food resources meant that Denali controlled who got to eat first in the weekly deer carcass feeding. For whatever reason, Denali would allow Boltz and Axel to feed with him but would chase Grayson away from the carcass until everyone else was full. Even though staff supplementally fed Grayson to make sure he got enough to eat, he was frustrated with this situation and it showed in pack interactions. One of those behaviors witnessed by staff was a “Grab Bite” where Grayson would grab a back leg for a nip and run away, often chased by Denali. This behavior ultimately led to Denali’s retirement in October, 2020. As staff arrived for daily operations on the morning of October 16th, they noticed that Denali had a paw injury. Further inspection showed a tear on his back right paw that was going to require some more intense medical care than could be completed in the Exhibit Pack. The decision was made to retire Denali at 12.5 years of age. This was far older than any of our previous retirees who had all been retired by 10 years of age. Since his retirement, he has been reunited with Grizzer, a former packmate and has adapted to a calmer, more restful life in retirement. Watch our Youtube channel to see Denali in his prime years as an Exhibit Pack member or view our live webcams to watch him as he ages gracefully in retirement. He will also be featured in our Retired Pack Wolf logs along with Grizzer.
For more information on our ambassador wolves, watch extended wolf videos on the International Wolf Center’s YouTube Channel or enjoy a close-up of wolf behavior on our Wolf Watch Cams.