The wolf was a 1-year-old male, a member of the East Fork Pack, which lives inside the park but spends time outside its boundaries.
It's hard to know if the wolf was legally trapped on state land outside the park or illegally trapped inside the park, park spokeswoman Kris Fister said.
As with other park wolves, the yearling wore a radio collar that tracked its location for a National Park Service study. The wolf had recently spent time in the Stampede Trail area outside the park.
Park staff found the dead wolf with a cable snare around its neck during a wolf survey March 12 south of Sanctuary River. The wolf's radio collar may have kept the snare from strangling the wolf immediately, giving the wolf time to escape the trap's anchor, she said. No one has come forward to claim the carcass of the wolf.
Wolf advocate Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks environmental conservation biologist, circulated photos and information about the dead wolf to Alaska media outlets on Monday. The death illustrates the need for a wolf-protection buffer zone like the one that banned trapping in an area directly outside of the park until 2010, he said.
Denali National Park's wolf population dropped to 50 wolves in 2014, among the lowest populations since monitoring began in 1986. The parks' monitoring program indicates humans are responsible for about a quarter of collared wolf deaths in the park, a number trappers use to argue that they're a small part of the declining wolf population.
Steiner criticized the Park Service for not mentioning the most recent wolf death when the Alaska Board of Game considered an emergency petition to re-establish the buffer the day after the wolf was found. The Board of Game voted unanimously against an emergency order petition to re-establish the buffer zone.
But Steiner said in a phone interview that he doesn't plan to lobby the game board for a buffer zone again, because he thinks it's futile. "I'm pretty much done with the (Alaska) Board of Game," Steiner said. "They're so ideologically opposed to doing anything."
Steiner wants to persuade the state of Alaska to grant the federal government a conservation easement to restrict trapping around the park. In return for such an easement, the state could ask for cash or an equivalently valued easement on federal land.