The Alaska Zoo is mourning the loss of its wolf family group’s leader, 13-year-old gray wolf Denali.

He was found dead Tuesday morning, according to a release sent Wednesday.

Results of a necropsy showed Denali died of bloat caused by gastric torsion, a condition commonly referred to as twisted gut. He had no signs of the illness in the days leading up to his death.

Denali came to the zoo in 2006 at just two weeks old, along with five other pups from his litter. The zoo says he played a crucial role in promoting conservation and education about gray wolves since then.

Patrick Lampi, the zoo's executive director, says Denali will be missed by fans all over the world.

“We are heartbroken to lose Denali,” Lampi said. “The Alaska Zoo team has cared for Denali since he was only two weeks old, and our wolf family group just won’t be the same without him. The animals who call the zoo home are like family to us and to many of our visitors. We know Denali’s loss will be felt far and wide."

Denali was a favorite of zoo staff and visitors alike. He was elected president of the Alaska Zoo during a mock election in 2016 and participated in Wolf Walk where visitors got to give him belly rubs, which he loved.

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