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Interrelationships of Denali's large mammal community

January 1, 2006

Along with its sweeping mountain landscapes, Denali National Park and Preserve (Denali) is probably best known for opportunities to observe the large mammals common to Interior Alaska. Locally known as the “Big Five,” gray wolves (Canis lupus), grizzly bears (Ursus arctos),moose (Alces alces), caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and Dall sheep (Ovis dalli) have coexisted in the region for millennia. While many other animals occur in Denali, none are as readily associated with the park environment as these species.

In addition to the opportunities for viewing or photographing Interior Alaska’s large mammals, Denali is a great natural laboratory to study the species and their interrelationships. Unlike the rest of Interior Alaska, the Denali carnivore/ungulate community has been little affected by human harvests for several decades, and interactions of these species are driven largely by natural phenomena. It is a common perception that large mammals are “abundant” within the protected confines of the park boundaries, but that is not the case. Throughout much of Interior Alaska, large mammals occur at low densities naturally, and Denali is no exception. Although Denali encompasses over 6,600 square miles (17,100 km2 ) of suitable habitat, currently about 100 wolves, 350 grizzly bears, 2,000 caribou, 1,900 moose, and 1,800 Dall sheep occur there. In comparison, areas of the Tanana Flats and northern Alaska Range adjacent to Denali on the east have long been managed for human harvests, and moose occur there at about six times the density of Denali.

Publication Year 2006
Title Interrelationships of Denali's large mammal community
Authors Layne G. Adams, Thomas J. Meier, Patricia Owen, Gretchen H. Roffler
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Alaska Park Science
Index ID 70187738
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center