Details: Through the help of kids just like you, Earth Rangers and Dr. Brent Patterson of the Ministry of Natural Resources are protecting eastern wolves. The donations raised for this Bring Back the Wild™ project are helping to:
- Support telemetry research to learn more about this apex predator’s movement patterns, current distribution and habitat use in Algonquin Provincial Park
- This project will also help verify a possible second Ontario eastern wolf population in the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands
A message from wolf researcher Dr. Patterson…
“Eastern wolves used to live in most of the deciduous forests of eastern North America. Unfortunately, human development and clearing of much of these forests has reduced the amount of habitat the eastern wolf can call home, and their populations are getting smaller. By better understanding habitat use and needs of eastern wolves, we will help them survive and expand in the future.”
Check out the latest updates about eastern wolves!
• They can be found in Ontario and Quebec with the biggest population living in Algonquin Provincial Park
• Eastern wolves use howling as a form of communication; different howls mean different things
• The majority of their diet is made up of white-tailed deer, which they hunt for in packs
• Pups are born in April and are fed by adults until they are old enough to hunt on their own
• A species of Special Concern in Canada (COSEWIC 2001) which has recently been recommended for uplisting to “Threatened” (COSEWIC 2015); the major threats they face are interbreeding with coyotes, habitat loss, as well as hunting and trapping.
The Eastern wolf is a medium-sized canine (member of the dog family) similar to the grey wolf but smaller. Where the grey wolf measures 81 cm at shoulder and weighs 40-45 kg (88-99 lbs.), the eastern wolf measures just 68 cm at shoulder and weighs 30 kg (66 lbs.). In fact, the eastern wolf is also smaller than many other North American wolves.
You can also tell the difference between an eastern wolf and a grey wolf by its fur colouring. The eastern wolf has a reddish-brown muzzle (snout). It also has reddish-brown fur behind its ears and on the bottom part of its legs. On its back, there is a mix of brown, black and greyish-white fur, followed by a long, bushy, brownish tail with a black tip.
One of two wolf species found in Canada, eastern wolves live in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence forest region, with populations living in southwestern Quebec, Algonquin Park and in and around the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands. In fact, Algonquin Provincial Park has been the hub of wolf research in Canada since 1959!
Eastern wolves make their homes in mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. These are forests that have a mix of trees that produce cones (like pines, cedars and firs) and trees that lose their leaves in the winter (like maples and birch). If there is an area within mixed deciduous-coniferous forests that has water, shelter and protection, then the eastern wolf has found an ideal spot to raise their young.
As their young grow older, eastern wolves need a lot of space. That’s because they don’t just stay in one place; they migrate. These wolves are always on the lookout for food and will travel great distances to find it. One study of eastern wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park from 1987 to 1999 found that wolves followed white-tailed deer to areas outside the Park, then returned back to the protection of their home territory. Eastern wolves can roam up to 500 km2; that’s roughly the size of the city of Toronto!
Did you know that when wolves howl they aren’t just making noise? They are communicating with each other. Each type of howl has a different meaning. For example, wolves howl to tell other members of their pack their location or to talk to each other during a hunt. Multiple wolves howling together can mean the wolves are establishing or defending their territory.
As forests become divided and animals are forced to live closer together, these wolves will have to work harder to keep their territory. Recently, coyotes started entering into eastern wolf territory and are posing a serious threat. Not only are they competing for food and shelter, but these two canines are also breeding with each other. A mix between an eastern wolf and coyote is called an eastern coyote. These hybrids are more common than eastern wolves and have taken over the eastern wolves’ former home range.
Eastern wolves are carnivores, meaning they mostly eat meat. White-tailed deer make up the majority of this wolf’s diet, but they will also hunt moose, caribou and beaver.
Eastern wolves hunt in packs. Since they aren’t the fastest animals, they rely on their endurance and pack size to catch their food. They can run and run, sometimes for hours without getting tired. When their prey gets tired, that’s when the eastern wolves catch their meal.
The eastern wolf’s family life revolves around the alpha (breeding) male and female. They are the highest ranked members of the pack and usually the parents of the rest of the pack members.
The breeding season is different for wolves in different areas but for wolves in Ontario it peaks around mid to late February. Before mating, the two breeding adults form closer bonds by licking each other’s faces, sitting close together, and marking their territory at the same time.
A litter of pups (usually between four and seven pups) is born about two months later. They will grow up in the safety of a den and the mother will nurse them for about six to eight weeks. After this time, other pack members help take care of the young. At this age, the pups are still too young to eat food by themselves so the adults chew the food first and regurgitate it (like how a mother bird feeds her chicks).
By late July, the young are too big for the den so the pack moves to a place with more room. They look for a spot with shelter and a water source, such as a bog or stream. The area has to be hidden and easily defendable against predators. It is here where the young wolves, who can start to eat solid food by August/September, begin to develop their hunting skills by chasing after small animals and insects.
- A species of Special Concern in Canada (COSEWIC 2001) which has recently been recommended for uplisting to “Threatened” (COSEWIC 2015)
- Threatened by interbreeding with coyotes, habitat loss, as well as hunting and trapping
During the 1940s eastern wolves almost disappeared from Canada. While their population numbers have increase since then, there are still fewer than about 1,000 eastern wolves in Canada in the wild.
The eastern wolf’s biggest threat is forest habitat loss and degradation. Continued logging and disturbance of the forests where they live are making it harder for these large canines to survive. Logging isn’t just making the forests smaller; the equipment also creates lots of noise and pollution, making it hard for many forest animals to find suitable homes.
Eastern wolves are also the target of illegal hunting. During 1964 and 1965 there was a 36% drop in the Algonquin Provincial Park eastern wolf population. In 1993, a seasonal ban was put in place in three townships around the Park. The ban was upgraded in November 2001 to include 40 townships. Finally, in May 2004, a year-round ban was established. Unfortunately, the eastern wolf is not currently protected under ONESA (Ontario Endangered Species Act) so they are still at risk. They are protected by the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which means they can be hunted outside provincial parks and game preserves but only if the hunters have a permit.
Earth Rangers is working together with Ontario Power Generation and Dr. Brent Patterson of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to protect the eastern wolf. You can help by signing up for a Bring Back the Wild campaign. Your donations will help purchase six new GPS satellite collars. Using these collars, Dr. Patterson will be able to study movement patterns, current distributions and habitat used by eastern wolves to learn how to better protect them. Your donations will also help verify a possible second population of eastern wolves in and around Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands.
Benson J, BR Patterson and PJ Mahoney (2014). Genotype-specific survival in a Canis hybrid zone: Source-sink harvest mortality influences hybridization dynamics between wolves and coyotes. Ecology: 254-264.
Benson JF, KJ Mills, KM Loveless and BR Patterson (2013). Genetic and environmental influences on pup mortality risk for wolves and coyotes within a Canis hybrid zone. Biological Conservation 166:133-141.
Benson JF and BR Patterson (2013). Interspecific territoriality in a Canis hybrid zone: spatial segregation between wolves, coyotes, and hybrids. Oecologia 173:1539-1550.
Benson JF, BR Patterson and TJ Wheeldon (2012). Spatial genetic and morphologic structure of wolves and coyotes in relation to environmental heterogeneity in a Canis hybrid zone. Molecular Ecology 21:5934-5954.
Euler D (2011?). How will forest management impact coniferous migratory bird habitat in Algonquin Provincial Park? Not published in peer-reviewed journal, but still a scientific study.
Holland RA (2010). Differential effects of magnetic pulses on the orientation of naturally migrating birds. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 7:1617-1625.
Kirk DA, KE Lindsay and RW Brook (2011). Risk of agricultural practices and habitat change to farmland birds. Avian Conservation and Ecology 6(1):5. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/10.5751/ACE-00446-060105
Kyle CJ, et al. 2006. Conservation Genetics. 7:273-287.
Rutledge LY, BN White, JR Row and BR Patterson (2011). Intense harvesting of eastern wolves facilitated hybridization with coyotes. Ecology and Evolution 2:19-33.
Patterson BR, JF Benson, KR Middel, KJ Mills, A Silver and ME Obbard (2013). Moose calf mortality in Central Ontario, Canada. Journal of Wildlife Management 77:832-841.
Patterson BR (2014). Eastern wolf proposal, Earth Rangers.