Southeast Alaska is home to the Alexander Archipelago wolf, a subspecies of the grey or timber wolf. (The islands of Southeast Alaska are referred to collectively as the Alexander Archipelago.) These wolves tend to be smaller and darker than their counterparts elsewhere, averaging 85 to 115 pounds. The population is relatively isolated from other wolf populations by water and mountain barriers.
The Alexander Archipelago wolf inhabits most of the Tongass National Forest except for Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Islands. Most of the wolves in Southeast Alaska are found on the large islands south of Frederick Sound, especially Prince of Wales Island.
Wolves likely entered Southeast Alaska sometime after the ice age, following the northward expansion of black-tailed deer along the coast. Research suggests that Alexander Archipelago wolves originated from animals that moved north from the western United States. Genetically, they are more similar to wolves in the Lower 48 than they are to wolves in Interior Alaska.
Sitka black-tailed deer are the primary food for Southeast wolves. Studies by Alaska Department of Fish and Game researchers indicate a wolf on average eats about 26 deer a year. Beaver, mountain goats and small mammals supplement this diet, and in Southeast, den sites are often found near beaver ponds. In coastal areas, salmon is an important food, especially for young wolves. These wolves don't just scavenge dead salmon, they actively fish, usually in shallow water in the intertidal areas. Wolves also beachcomb and scavenge dead animals that wash ashore.
Wolves are social animals, living in packs of seven to about 12 animals. These are usually family groups that include parents and young of the year, but larger packs may include pups for two or three litters, from more than one female, and some yearlings that stay with the pack.
What to Look for: Wolves are very elusive, but it may be possible to see wolves on the beach, especially in the early morning or evening. Wolves may also be heard howling, most often in the evening or at night. If you are hiking, look for dog-like scat filled with hair.