The History of Wolf Pack Names in Denali National Park & Preserve

Vic Van Ballenberghe,
Research Wildlife Biologist Pacific Northwest Research Station
Anchorage Forestry Sciences Lab

Over the years, the names of the wolf packs at the eastern end of Denali National Park have changed thereby adding some confusion for those interested in tracing the history of these wolves. Sixty years ago Adolph Murie referred to the two main packs as the Savage River Pack and the East Fork River Pack. Gordon Haber studied these same packs 30 years ago and referred to them as the Savage Pack and the Toklat Pack. He also referred to a Headquarters Pack located east of the Savage Pack's territory.

In recent years, L.D. Mech and his colleagues observed these wolves during a period when some of the packs and their territories were not stable. They referred to the East Fork pack (using Murie's original name) but observed this group to occupy part of the Savage Pack's territory. They called the group that used the remainder of the original Savage territory the Headquarters Pack, and referred to a Savage Pack that ranged north of this area in the lower Savage River. In addition, they reported that another group, the Jenny Creek Pack, displaced the Headquarters Pack during one year.

Following the demise of the Headquarters Pack in 1995, immigrant wolves recolonized the vacant territory. National Park Service personnel now refer to this group as the Sanctuary Pack, but their territory is very similar to that of the Headquarters Pack. The East Fork/Toklat wolves continue to use their traditional territory, with either name applied to them depending on who is involved.


Victor Van Ballenberghe is a wildlife biologist who has studied moose and wolves for over 28 years.