The Waheela is a wolf-like cryptid allegedly native to Canada’s Northwest Territories and Alaska. The creature purportedly hails from the South Nahanni River area.

The Nahanni River is a tributary of the Liard River, west of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.

Although the Waheela is native to northern Tundra regions, it may migrate southward during winter, according to cryptozoologist George Eberhart (2002).

Thus, there have also been alleged reports of the Waheela or Waheela-like beasts as far south as Hearst, Ontario, and northern Michigan.


The Waheela is more robust than wolves

According to folklore, the Waheela is similar in appearance to the Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), but it is much taller, heavier, and overall more robust than regular wolves.

Some sources estimated the height of the Waheela at the withers at 3.5-4 feet. Eberhart (2002) estimated the average at about 3.5 feet.

It has thick white fur similar to the Arctic wolf. However, other sources said the Waheela looks like the Northwestern wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis), a subspecies of the gray wolf also known as the Mackenzie Valley wolf.

The coat color of the Northwestern wolf could be black, white, gray, tan/brown, or blueish, with gray and black being the most common.

The Waheela has a slopy back similar to a German Shepherd

The Waheela has a low-slung head that is bigger and broader than regular wolves. It also has a flattened head, a broad muzzle, small ears, long but sturdy legs, and a bushy tail. Individuals may weigh up to 200 lbs.

Some alleged witnesses said the Waheela has hind legs shorter than the front legs, giving the back a sloppy appearance like a German Shepherd.

Eyewitnesses also said the Waheela has splayed toes and its tracks are about 8 inches across.

The Waheela is solitary

Wolves are pack animals that hunt in groups, but the Waheela is allegedly a solitary hunter.

However, Eberhart (2002) writes in Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology about alleged sightings of Waheela in Ontario hunting large animals, such as moose, in packs.

Some native legends claimed that the creature is invulnerable to weapons and thus invincible.

In a letter to the cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson (1911–1973), a man who heard tales of the creature from a Dene (Athabascan) native said it was a scavenger and preferred to feed on carrion rather than hunt.

Although the Waheela is strong enough to bring down a bear, it prefers easy prey such as juvenile, old, or injured animals.

It would stalk a nursing prey and snatch its young. The creature also allegedly attacks humans on sight.

Origin stories

The legend of the Waheela reportedly originated in the folklore of native peoples of Alaska and the Northwest territories, such as the Athabascan (Dene), Inupiaqs (Iñupiat), Tlingit, Haida, and Tshimshian.

They believe the creature is a supernatural entity with magical powers.

However, the name (Waheela) did not originate from the languages of the natives of Alaska and the Northwest Territories. Cryptozoologist Sanderson was the first to use the name in his writings.

Hammerson Peters (2018) reported that Sanderson named the cryptid after a wolf-like beast that Northern Michigan natives believed roamed their forests.

According to the folklore of the native peoples of Alaska and the Northwest Territories, the Waheela is native to Nahanni.

The word (Nahanni) comes from the language of the indigenous Dene (Athasbaskan) people. It means “the river in the land of the Naha.”

In the native legends, Waheela is not an ordinary beast but a supernatural entity or a demon that kills people by tearing off their heads or decapitating them.

Sightings and Tales

Many members of native groups claim to have seen the Waheela. But sightings of the creature by European settlers are rare.

According to Sanderson, an acquaintance reported seeing an oversized white wolf while hunting on the banks of the South Nahanni, upriver from Virginia Falls, Northwest Territories, Canada.

The creature had a broad head and a shaggy coat. He fired twice at the beast to no effect.

Eberhart (2002) noted reports of mysterious deaths of prospectors in the region where the sighting occurred. The victims had their heads ripped off.

Frank Graves

Frank Graves, a young man from Philadelphia, reported sighting the Waheela while hunting Sasquatchs in the remote Nahanni Valley area in the 1960s.

Graves reported sighting a strange wolf-like beast during an excursion with a native guide.

According to Graves, he was sitting on a grassy plateau, waiting for his guide and dog to return from pursuing a flock of wildfowls when a massive creature emerged from behind a bush.

The creature had a snow-white coat, so Gravess first thought it was a polar bear. He was carrying a double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun, so he prepared to defend himself (polar bears have a reputation for aggression).

But as the creature moved into sight, he realized it was not a bear but an enormous dog-like animal.

The creature had long legs and a large, flat head. Graves had never seen or heard of such a beast. He panicked and opened fire with his shotgun. The creature did not flinch.

Instead, it turned and ambled back into the woods. Graves fired once again at the retreating beast. It barely noticed.

Graves’ companion heard the shots and returned quickly, anxious about his ward’s safety. Shaken, Graves related his experience. The native looked alarmed and insisted they immediately retreat.

Later at the camp, the native told Graves the creature wasn’t an enormous wolf but something entirely different and perhaps sinister.

The natives believe that the Waheela is a rare supernatural creature with magical powers.

A native’s testimony

In a letter to Sanderson, a man narrated an encounter with a Dene (Dena or Athasbascan) native he met at Mooseneee, Northern Ontario, in October 1970 (Hammerson Peters, 2018).

The native described a terrifying creature with an 11-foot body and a 4-foot-long tail that lived in Nahanni country. He said the creature sloped from front to back like a German Shepherd.

Native hunters feared the monster because none could find a way to kill it. It seemed impervious to weapons.

Tex Zeigler

Tex Zeigler, a friend of Sanderson, also told him about his experience when he worked as a pilot flying routes across the Alaskan wilderness.

Zeigler said that during multiple flights, he spotted enormous solitary wolf-like creatures.

Paul W.

In a letter to the editor of the North American BioFortean Review (2000), a man, Paul W., wrote that a friend reported encountering a gigantic white wolf in Northern Ontario.

The person saw the alleged monster feeding on the carcass of a moose and estimated the weight at about 200 pounds. The creature appeared much larger and more robust than any alpha male wolf he had ever seen, and its spoor was about 8 inches wide.

The witness also said the creature’s hind legs were shorter than the front, giving it a German Shepherd-like appearance.

Waheela Explanations

Cryptozoologists have proposed multiple theories to explain Waheela sightings.


Cryptozoologist Sanderson proposed that the Waheela might be an animal belonging to the genus Amphicyon (family Amphicyonidae), believed extinct.

Amphicyonidae were carnivorous animals often informally referred to as bear dogs because they combined bear-like and dog-like physical features.

They populated North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa during the middle Eocene (c. 45 million years ago) and early Miocene (c. 23 million years) epochs.

One of the best-known species of the genus Amphicyon is Amphicyon ingens. It was a large carnivorous species often described as a bone-crushing carnivore.

It was a robust species. Adults reached about 8 feet in length and weighed about 600 kilograms.

Although many species of the family Amphicyonidae had gone extinct by 8 million years ago, the genus Amphicyon did not go extinct until about 2.5 million years ago.

Dire wolf

Some cryptozoologists suggested that the Waheela could be surviving members of a prehistoric species known as the dire wolf (Aenocyon dirus).

Dire wolves lived during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene epochs, about 125,000 to 9,500 years ago when humans were a well-established species.

They were a wolf-like carnivorous species that roamed the plains, grasslands, and some forested mountainous regions of the Americas and East Asia.

They were more robust than modern gray wolves (Canis lupus). They had stronger teeth with a biting force exceeding any known extant wolf species.

Oversize Canis lupus individuals

Some wildlife experts and cryptozoologists proposed that sightings may have been due to rare cases of oversized wolf individuals.

To illustrate, we may consider the fact that humans vary significantly in size. While the average height of a human male is about 69 inches, there are rare cases of individuals as tall as 7 feet.

Unknown species

A few investigators proposed that the Waheela could be an unknown wolf species.

Other Name/sSaberwolf, Great white wolf
LocationCanada, United States, 
HabitatCountryside, Forest


Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, Eberhart, George M. (2002).

https://mysteriesofcanada.com/nwt/waheela-the-great-white-wolf-of-northern-canada/, “Waheela- the Great White Wolf of Northern Canada,” accessed on March 12, 2023.

https://99wfmk.com/the-waheela/, “Michigan Monster: The Waheela,” accessed on March 12, 2023.

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