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Denali

DenaliAidan 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.    Visitors to the Center or to the webcam can witness Denali’s tendency to gain full possession of the weekly deer carcass, making Grayson and often Boltz wait their turn. Dynamics are always changing in a wolf pack and we know that Denali will always look for opportunities to possess his food and test his limits. 

Each wolf in the Exhibit and Retired Pack will have regular updates posted to reveal their individual personalities and the dynamics of their respective packs, please check the individual logs for details.

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.

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Recent Logs for Denali:

Axel responding to Denali's threat display

Denali – Determines The Feeding Order

August 9th, 2018

Denali has always been the wolf that controls the carcass, even though he wasn’t the wolf that controlled the pack.  In the wild, higher ranking wolves may be the ones that eat first because they may be directly involved with making the kill, but in captivity, when the food is wheeled in a wheelbarrow, personality dictates who possesses food.  One thing about Denali is that he has a lot of personality.  After Aidan was retired, Denali has not been showing much interest in Aidan, but he certainly has increased the amount of interaction with pack mates.  He has become far more possessive of food and is the main influence on who gets to eat first.  In the past, it was Axel, but as of July 28th, Boltz has come into favor.   Other noticeable behaviors are the jaw sparring and rallying behaviors displayed during the cooler parts of the day.   Denali also gets excited about any of the enclosure enrichment activities we provide.  We know we have a successful idea when Denali does a full tail spin in a 360 degree circle and hops on over to the enrichment window.  It’s nice to have feedback. 

Denali- Clear Pond – Deep Diving

July 24th, 2018

Thanks to Anika Hahn’s donations a few years ago, we are able to maintain a relatively algae free pond through the use of UV filters attached to our pond pump.  The result is a clear view to the bottom of the pond.  This is enticing to Denali who has retrieved items from the pond by use of his over-sized front paws and an inhibition to dunking his head.  Not only is this good stimuli for Denali, but it also gets him into the pond on some warmer than usual Minnesota days.  As the largest wolf on Exhibit, Denali does have some issues with the heat; staff need to be very  observant to his mobility and general attitude, especially when the humidity is over 80%. 

Denali – Testing Grayson’s Patience

July 2nd, 2018

Each pack member has a different relationship with the other individuals of the pack.  Since the 2016 introduction, Grayson has been on Denali’s radar.  We know wolves identify weakness as a basis of prey selection, but in social relationships, we also see weakness being a target for rank order dominance.  Since joining the Exhibit Pack, Grayson has been the frequent recipient of fore-leg stabs, inhibited scruff bites, jaw spars and the occasional chase behaviors.  Now that Grayson is two years of age, Denali is learning what goes around, comes around.  Despite Grayson’s 89.5 pound stature, when he decides to reciprocate Denali’s attention, Denali gets the message.  But, summer is the calm time; most of Denali’s interactions with Axel and Grayson involve three masses of fur running, jumping, tail wagging and grinning.  

Denali - Largest pack member and thickest winter coat

Denali – Last In Line To Shed

June 7th, 2018

There’s a few things worth noting in this week’s log photo.  First and most importantly, Aidan is clearly back in the mix of pack interactions.  The photo line-up is Grayson, Denali, Aidan and Axel (on the back side next to Aidan- not possible for Aidan just a few weeks ago).  The second most notable item in this photo is that Denali has most of his winter undercoat.  Grayson is partially shed, Aidan and Axel have nearly completed the shedding process (thanks to the diligence of wolf care staff brushing), but no luck on Denali despite efforts to brush.  Considering the black fly season has now stared, he is certainly in a better circumstance than the rest as insects have a hard time reaching his skin.  It makes us wonder if there’s an evolutionary function to a delayed shedding pattern.  Denali has been the focus of some medical care in the last few weeks.  In late May, staff noticed a spot of irritation inside the skin folds of Denali’s back leg.  This area is termed the inguinal area.  After clearing some of his undercoat, staff noticed  the area was somewhat spongy in the middle and the initial concern was whether he had an inguinal hernia.  If so, this could be a serious medical condition, especially for a wolf like Denali who pounces, jumps, runs and lunges in several contorted postures.  While staff can describe and photograph particular wolf issues to convey to the Veterinarian, it is best that the Veterinarian sees them first hand.  In most of our wolves, that would require a chemical immobilization and a trip to the clinic, but Denali is a special case.  His social tolerances for people is better than most and he willingly allows the Veterinarian to interact with him.  The only challenge is that we need to isolate him from the pack in order to accomplish a Vet exam and isolation makes for some focused pack members on the other side of the chute.  Grayson, in particular, waited to see if the short separation changed Denali’s status.  The good news from the Vet was that it wasn’t a hernia, the not so good news is that he has a similar mast cell growth that Aidan had.  Yes, I use past tense as Aidan’s growth has now diminished with the help of antihistamines.  We started on a similar treatment for Denali and so far, his growth has diminished as well. 

Denali is the master of food possession at a distance

Denali – Doesn’t Need To Be Near Food To Possess It

May 16th, 2018

Denali has always been a wolf with a strong tendency for food possession.  Lately, there seems to be a direct intent to keep Grayson away from food resources.  This may have something to do with Grayson and Denali’s relationship.  Since Grayson’s introduction, Denali has focused on Grayson, usually resulting in chasing Grayson around the enclosure and into the safety of the pond rocks.  For those of us who have been in wolf care for a few years, this is very reminiscent of Maya’s focus on Aidan.   Why focus on Grayson?  Maybe Denali sees more potential for competition from Grayson than Axel.  There is no doubt, Grayson has more intensity than Axel in most of his activities.  This is not just a one-way interaction between Denali and Grayson.  Lately Grayson has displayed some grab-bites that instigates some of Denali’s chases.  Whenever possible, wolf care staff try to provide a distraction to diffuse some intensity between individuals.  But, wolves live in the moment,  What can be intense at one instance can be completely opposite the next.  On May 4th staff noted an observation in the logs: “Grayson went into main den for several hours with Aidan and Denali, when Denali finally came out and laid down elsewhere, Grayson came out of the den and went to go sleep with Denali” 

The biggest challenge we have managing this exhibit in the summer is the stimuli created by summer enrichments.  Wolves in summer tend to be more crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk, which doesn’t align as well with summer viewing.  In an effort to stimulate the wolves during the visitor center viewing hours, we schedule enrichments after each “Ambassador Wolf” program and have a special noon-time enrichment during the heart of summer.  Staff need to be creative as the Center is open seven days a week from May 11 – October 14th.  We also need to cognitive of the food enrichments.  While they are great stimuli, food creates competition and competition creates facial expressions like Denali.  For Denali, he doesn’t need to be near food to possess it.

Weight: 141