Eastern Wolf -- Canis lycaon

An account, with photographs of an encounter with an Eastern Wolf (Canis lycaon) in eastern Algonquin Park.

2003 October 07

The Eastern Wolf — Canis lycaon — is designated as a "Species of Special Concern" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The population is believed to be stressed and declining. A significant contribution to the population's decline is a high mortality due to hunting and trapping outside the Algonquin Park boundary.

While returning from our hike to Eustache Lake in Eastern Algonquin park, my friend Richard and I had cause to pull off at a side road in the Achray area. To our surprise a young wolf was standing on the road.

Algonquin Red Wolf Eastern Wolf

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To our further surprise, it did not run away; rather it approached the car. But note the timid, submissive demeanour. However, while it was willing to approach the car, on the two occasions when I tried to exit the car (for better photography), it retreated into the bush.

Algonquin Red Wolf Eastern Wolf

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But when I got back into the car, it would come back.

Algonquin Red Wolf Eastern Wolf

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Clearly, there is something wrong here. It could be rabid, but I don't think so. My speculation is that this is a young female wolf that was orphaned at an early age; she doesn't know how to be a wolf. She is genetically disposed to be sociable but doesn't know how or when. She is wary of man, but not wary enough.

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Algonquin Red Wolf Eastern Wolf

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A wolf pack has a complex hierarchal social structure. But one of the effects of the high mortality of Algonquin wolves is that there are very few older wolves. The pack structure is currently being seriously stressed and disrupted.

For an excellent and very readable account of the story of the wolves of Algonquin park, I recommend Wolf Country by John and Mary Theberge, published by McClelland and Stewart Inc., Toronto.

For information about protecting the wolves of Algonquin Park, visit the Ottawa Valley Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Sources

D.H. Pimlott, J.A. Shannon, and G.B. Kolenosky (1977), The Ecology of the Timber Wolf in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Dan Strickland et al. (2002), The Raven talks about Wolves, The Friends of Algonquin Park.

Dan Strickland and Russ Rutter (1993), The Best of The Raven, The Friends of Algonquin Park.

John B. Theberge (1975), Wolves and Wilderness, J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

John B. Theberge with Mary T. Theberge (1998), Wolf Country, Eleven Years Tracking the Algonquin Wolves, McClelland & Stewart Inc.