Wolves of the Alexander Archipelago

CRUNCH, CRUNCH, SPLASH, CRUNCH!” I hear them before I see them as I paddle my kayak around a rocky point in Glacier Bay National Park: 12 wolves feasting on a bed of mussels at low tide. They smack their lips, tearing bivalves from the rocks, crushing them in a few snaps, and swallowing them shell and all.

You could travel the wildest reaches of Alaska for a lifetime and not witness a scene like this—a pack of wolves feeding on a caribou kill on the edge of a rushing river. From the crest of a tundra bluff, I watched the gray alpha male tug at a hindquarter as others waited their turns. Then a female grizzly with two cubs arrived and drove the pack off. As she and one cub fed, the other hammed it up, standing on hind legs, rolling his eyes, gnawing on an antler. I sat transfixed behind my camera tripod, glued to the eyepiece, squeezing off shot after shot. It was easy to imagine that I sat alone somewhere up some far arctic valley, hundreds of miles from the nearest road. But to my right and left, crowds gathered—several busloads of people jammed against he windows, plus a half dozen professional photographers and…