Alaskan Wolves
Creatures of Great Skill

Alaskan Wolves are definitely a part of our backwoods environment. They help keep the balance in both the large and small game populations.

Wolves are predators of moose, caribou, mountain sheep, mountain goats, black bears, beaver, rabbits, squirrels and other game. They kill old and diseased animals as well as young, so have their part in nature's balance.

Alaskan wolves breed in winter and generally have their young in May or June. Luckily they have numerous pups at one time and are very adaptable animals, so have survived human onslaughts.

They are beautiful, intelligent animals, just like many domesticated dogs. And they are so closely related to dogs, it is not uncommon for wild wolves to breed with dogs that live outdoors, in Alaska's wilderness areas.

Is She Listening or Looking?
Photo of Head of Black Alaskan Wolf

My Alaskan Wolf Story:

When we first arrived in Alaska, my parents made friends with a number of Native families living around Tok. And like almost all Alaskan natives, they had a number of dogs. Dogs are used for pulling sleds in winter or other labor.

We got acquainted with one family that just happened to have a few puppies left over from a recent litter. This litter was different because it had been sired by a wild wolf. Since my sister and I were 5 and 6 years old, they insisted on giving us a puppy. Mom was a bit concerned because of the wild blood in it, but we accepted. After all, it was a gift!

We called her Tippy and she moved to Anchorage with us in the fall. By winter she was getting quite feisty and continually grabbed our mittens with her sharp little teeth, pulling them off our hands. My hands got a bit scratched and cold. So Dad taught me to hold her tongue down when she grabbed my mittens. That made her open her mouth so I could retrieve my hand AND glove.

She was definitely no different than any other puppy. Just as lovable, loyal and friendly as any fully domesticated dog.

Wolf Types and Locations:

There are two types of Alaskan wolves according to scientists.

Those in southeastern Alaska are said to be descendants of packs that moved north from the Rocky Mountains or other northwestern US and Canadian areas. They live on the southeastern mainland and all of the southeastern islands except Baranof, Chicagof and Admiralty Islands.

Wolves living on the rest of Alaska's mainland are northern wolves and are slightly larger than those in southeastern wolf packs. And though their numbers are small, they inhabit almost all areas of the mainland.

Currently, the only island in the Aleutian Chain that has Alaskan wolves is Unimak Island. Whether that is because they were transplanted there by humans or whether wolf populations on all the other islands were destroyed by Russian trappers back in the 1700s and 1800s, I do not know at this time.

What Wolves Look Like and Where to Find Them:

The Alaskan wolf comes in a variety of colors from black to grays, browns, tans and creamy whites. Their beautiful pelts are highly prized. And though thought of only as a commodity by some people, they enrich our lives much more when we allow them to continue their existence in our wilds as they always have.

Wolves usually make their dens under trees or old logs. You might see them during the day, but they are good hunters so hide themselves well. They do roam about day or night, so keep your camera handy. But you may have a better chance of seeing them at dusk.

Photo of a White Wolf Head with Frosted Trees in Background

When you are in a remote backwoods camp or cabin, listen for their familiar call some evening. It will send chills down your spine! It is a beautiful haunting call that helps remind us there are other forms of life on this planet that want to survive as much as we do. And I say we ought to let them survive.

Then we can continue to enjoy the company of our Alaskan wolves, just as I hope you will, on your next Alaska vacation. But another creature of our wilds you might like to see is the only wild cat in Alaskan wildlife...

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