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Alaska at a glance
The wolf lives throughout mainland Alaska, on Unimak Island in the Aleutians, and on all of the major islands in Southeast except Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof. This range includes about 85 percent of Alaska’s 586,000 square-mile area. Wolves have never been threatened or endangered in Alaska.
Wolves are adaptable and exist in a wide variety of habitats extending from the rain forests of the Southeast Panhandle to the arctic tundra along the Beaufort Sea.
State management allows an annual harvest, which takes approximately 15 percent of the wolf population each year. Over the last 30 years, wildlife management in Alaska has included local wolf control programs aimed at improving coexistence between the wolves, native cultures and hunters, although these programs remain controversial. Main prey for wolves here are moose, caribou, Dall sheep, deer, beaver and mountain goat, with Sitka black-tailed deer being a favorite in southeastern Alaska.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game writes on its website:
Wolves in Alaska are managed as both a big game animal and a furbearer; they are hunted and also trapped. Each year, hunters and trappers harvest about 1,300 wolves in the state, with up to an additional 200 animals or so taken annually via intensive management (predator control) programs. As with all furs, the prices paid for wolf pelts vary from year to year. All harvested wolves must be taken to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game or representative office for “sealing,” a process in which the hide is examined, recorded and a tag or seal is affixed.
Wolves are also valued intrinsically. They represent a spirit of wildness, wilderness, and something quintessentially Alaskan to many people. Although they are very difficult to view because of their elusive behavior, wildlife watchers cherish the occasional sightings. Sightings are more common in parks such as Denali.
Common Name: gray wolf, amaguk (Nunamiut), McKenzie Valley wolf, northwestern wolf
Latin Name: Canis lupus
Current Wolf Population, Trend, Status
Number of wolves: 8,000 – 11,000 (current as of 2018)
Population trend: Stable/slightly increasing.
Legal status: State managed.
Approximately 1,300 wolves per year are harvested by hunters and trappers in Alaska.
- Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Wildlife Conservation: The Wolf in Alaska
- Mech, L. David, Meier, Thomas J., and Burch, John W. 1991. Denali Park Wolf Studies: Implications for Yellowstone. Transcript of the 56th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. 1:86-90.
- Alaska DFG’s Division of Wildlife Conservation Publications.
- Article: Big wolves and ordinary wolves: Wolf weight depends on when and what they last ate
- Fall 2014 population estimate
- The status and outlook of southeast Alaska’s Unit 2 wolves
Wolf Human Interactions
- Living with wolves (ADFG Website)
- Living in Wolf Country (PDF 155 kB)
- Wolf Safety Brochure (PDF 329 kB)
- A Case History of Wolf-Human Encounters in Alaska and Canada by Mark McNay (PDF 2.1 MB)
- Managing Predators and Prey in Alaska (Video from the a ADFG website)
- Helping wolves in interior Alaska: Lice plague some Alaska wolf packs