Wolf mount, black/dark brown, standing

Carnivore of the dog family. Scientific name: Canis lupus.

Wolf populations in the Yukon follow the cycle of their prey, rising and falling with the abundance of food. The winter diet for wolves, when packs are larger, consists mainly of moose, caribou and sheep. In the spring and summer, when packs are dispersed, birds, fish and small mammals are consumed along with big prey. Wolves usually den on south facing slopes of hills or eskers where there is good drainage. Pups are born in early May and are able to travel considerable distances by mid-summer. Wolf pups that survive the perils of the wilderness remain with the adults until spring of the following year, and even then may range in the proximity of the den, joining the family to hunt the following winter. Their preferred food is large game such as elk, moose, and sheep while they tend to avoid bears and humans.

Humans hunt wolves in a limited capacity. They were mainly hunted for their fur, which was used to make blankets, clothing, and other necessities. Of course, as with all animals, First Nations people wasted nothing. Wolves primarily hunt big game and are seen mostly as competition, even today, the Yukon government does not require game tags to hunt these animals. They are extremely cunning animals and are considered to have strong animal spirits.

The symbol of the wolf is very important to Yukon First Nation peoples. Wolves are a large part of Native lore. In fact, wolves represent one of the two dominant moieties (societal clan) in the Yukon. The moiety (clan affiliation) of a new born is passed down to the child from the mother. Wolf and Crow people form the two main groups that make up the complex social structure of most Yukon First Nations. The two groups are socially required to help, bond with, and marry one another. Traditionally, the wolf was considered to be very much human like and the legends relay their relationship through transfigurement, union, and punishment for those who disrespected the wolf or his animal spirit.


Kluane Museum of History, Burwash Landing

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