Denali Wolf Biologist Dies in Plane Crash

Noted Alaska wolf biologist Gordon Haber, featured in BACKPACKER's "Dogs of War" story, dies in a plane crash in Denali National Park

Gordon Haber, 67, the charismatic and devoted wolf biologist featured in “Dogs of War” from BACKPACKER’s Jan. issue, died yesterday in a plane crash in Denali National Park. His death was confirmed by the pilot, Daniel McGregor, who survived with severe burns. McGregor walked over 20 miles with his injuries until he found two campers who helped him reach his home. He called state troopers from there.

Haber and McGregor set out in a white and blue Cessna on Wednesday to look for wolves on the north side of the park. When the plane missed its scheduled nightfall return, National Park Service officials scheduled a search. Yesterday afternoon, searchers found the wreckage of the plane with human remains inside, caught on a steep slope of trees near the east fork of the Toklat River, seven miles north of the road.

After being stabilized by medics from the National Park Service and the Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department, McGregor was flown to a Seattle burn center.

Haber was well-known in Alaska’s conservation community and has followed the Toklat pack of wolves for several years, making noted contributions to the field of wolf biology. Supporters and wolf enthusiasts followed his detailed observations on his web site. Denali’s 6-million-plus acres host about 100 wolves, of which 11 or so belong to the Toklat pack. BACKPACKER Senior Editor Tracy Ross, who spent a significant amount of time in the field with Haber, had this to say:

“This is a sad day in AK history. I never met anyone with so much passion or such singularity of focus. As eccentric as Haber could be, he was a devoted wolf advocate and Alaskan icon. He’ll be missed by many.”

Ross will return with a full remembrance for Haber on Monday. Until then, you can watch Gordon Haber in action in “Dogs of War, Part 2: Tracking the Toklat Pack” below:

—Ted Alvarez

Pilot survived crash that killed biologist (Anchorage Daily News)