Meet the Real Hero of Yellowstone -- the Mackenzie Valley Wolf

by Chris Anderson on October 01, 2020

The Canis lupus occidentalis which also goes by the Mackenzie Valley wolf, the Alaskan timber wolf, the Canadian timber wolf, or the rocky mountain wolf, was classified as a gray wolf subspecies in 1829 by Sir John Richardson, M.D. It is one of the largest wolf subspecies in North America

Mackenzie Valley wolves inhabit much of western Canada and Alaska including Unimak Island. In 1995-96, they were brought from Canada to restore populations in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. In Alaska, wolf packs are usually 6 to 12 wolves, though some packs may be as large as 20 to 30. Their territories in Alaska average about 600 square miles. In Yellowstone, pack size averages 9.2 wolves with average territory size of 348 square miles. In Idaho, pack size averages 11.1 with territories averaging 364 square miles.

Average males weigh between 100 and 145 pounds with females weighing roughly 10 to 20 percent less. The heaviest on record was caught in Alaska in 1939, weighing 175 pounds. Though the Guinness book of Animal World Records mentions an unconfirmed specimen weighing 230 pounds. They measure 32 to 36 inches shoulder height and 5 to 7 feet in length, from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. Their long, powerful legs allow them to travel as far as 70 miles a day, and through rough terrain like deep snow. They can reach speeds of up to 40 miles an hour for short periods of time. Their skull measures about 12 inches long. A combination of powerful jaw and neck muscles allows them to break bones and bring down large prey

The size of Mackenzie Valley wolves is partially due to their large abundance of food. They will prey on wood bison, elk, caribou, musk ox, moose, Dall sheep, Sitka black-tailed deer, mountain goat, beaver, ground squirrel, vole, snowshoe hare, lemmings, and salmon.

Breeding season usually occurs in February. The dominant male and female of the pack breed in attempt to keep up the strength of the pack. Usually 63 days after breeding, 4 to 6 pups are born. They leave the den in 4 to 6 weeks, and by fall, they are large enough to travel and hunt with the pack. They become full-grown in 6 to 8 months, and sexually mature at about 22 months.

Like most other wolves, human activity (hunting, trapping, etc.) is by far the greatest threat. However, protection given to the Mackenzie Valley wolf has allowed its population to increase drammatically. The wolf population in Alaska was estimated between 7,000 and 10,000 in 2006. Wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains (Greater Yellowstone Area, NW Montana, and Idaho) was estimated to be about 1200 and increasing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has decided to remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered list in the Northern Rockies and the western Great Lakes. Courts have overturned attempts in the past to remove them from the list. Legal battles are expected.

Source: Wolves of the World @