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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:

Denali and Axel

Denali – Uncertain Interactions Or EPTS

January 2nd, 2019

Here is another example of our Ethogram code “EPTS” or Ears Pricked and Turned Sideways.  This body posture is interpreted as one of piqued interest, but a bit intimidated.  Of course, that is Axel with the T-1 tail posture over his back about to face-off with Denali.  Neither of these two wolves seems confident enough to deal with direct confrontations, which can equate to lack of leadership abilities.  Denali has an excuse;  At the age of 10 1/2, he is the oldest wolf we have managed in our Exhibit Pack.  All other wolves in our 30 year history of captive wolf management have been retired by 10 years of age.  Denali can be food possessive and determine who gets to share a carcass with him, but that doesn’t make him a leader.  It only makes him a target at times, by the one wolf that sits, waits and watches for opportunities and that wolf is Grayson. 

Denali racing around the pond with the younger packmates

Denali – The Mind Is Willing…but The Body?

October 5th, 2018

This log was written by Carolyn Owen and Karen Owen, participants of the Wolf Photography Weekend in early October.

Denali was observed actively participating in several chases, mounting and jaw sparing behaviors. In this photo, Denali is observed rounding a corner to join the pack in a run around the enclosure. During the Saturday night feeding, Denali dominated the deer carcass allowing Boltz to feed for a limited time, keeping Axel and Grayson at a distance. After a period of time, however, Axel and Grayson were seen feeding.

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.