The Yukon wolf belongs to the Canis lupus species of gray wolves. It is considered a subspecies, called Canis lupus pambasileus, and also goes by the names Alaskan black wolf, Interior Alaskan wolf and Alaskan wolf. Yukon wolves are bigger than other wolves and tend to have darker fur. They live in forested areas throughout Alaska and the Yukon Territory in Canada. Population control programs have affected Yukon wolves in both Alaska and the Yukon.
Zoologist Daniel Elliot officially classified the Yukon wolf as a subspecies of Canis lupus in 1905. Although it is now a separate subspecies, it has also been considered part of the Canis lupus tundrarum, or Tundra wolf, subspecies in the past. The Yukon wolf does not share the same habitats as the Tundra wolf though, and they also differ physically. Tundra wolves have lighter fur and a longer coat, although they are about the same size as Yukon wolves.
Yukon wolves mainly have black fur that is sometimes mixed with other colors, such as gray or brown. Their thick undercoat provides them with added warmth in the cold northern climate. Adults typically weigh between 100 and 120 pounds (45 to 54 kg) and measure between 5 and 7 feet (1.5 to 2 m) long.
Like most other members of their species, Yukon wolves are highly social and live in packs numbering between five and eight. They are found in dense forests in most areas of Alaska and the Yukon, except for the northernmost regions and along the coastlines. The wolves hunt in packs to bring down large prey such as caribou. They also hunt alone for smaller prey, including squirrels and hares.
The Yukon government implemented the Yukon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in 1983 in response to a decline in caribou numbers in the Ross River region. The plan reduced the wolf population from 215 to 29. Another recovery program introduced in 1992 in the southwest part of the territory reduced wolf numbers by 80 percent in order to boost moose, Dall sheep and caribou populations. In Alaska in 2009, the Department of Fish and Game allowed the aerial hunting of wolves in order to reduce the population by 200.