Algonquin wolves (also known as eastern wolves, Canis Lycaon) once roamed the eastern temperate forests of North America. In certain areas they may have shared the landscape with grey wolves, which are bigger but seem to have similar dietary habits.
When Europeans colonized, they destroyed great swathes of wolf habitat and persecuted carnivores directly, killing them in enormous numbers. In Ontario, wolf bounties existed until 1972. That legacy of persecution destroyed the vast majority of Algonquin wolves, and pushed them slightly north into the Algonquin Park area. The remnant population that still exists in the United States is now so small and so isolated from Canada’s Algonquin wolves that they are considered an entirely different species, the red wolf (Canis Rufus).
Today, only several hundred Algonquin wolves remain. Algonquin Park is the species’ stronghold, with around 200-300 wolves depending on the time of year, and a handful of Algonquin wolves live in nearby but much smaller provincial parks. Outside of these areas, we do not know exactly how many Algonquin wolves there are, where they live or how they are coping with human-caused and natural mortality.
Despite being listed as a Threatened species in 2016, the Ontario government has utterly failed to implement the protection from hunting and trapping that the Endangered Species Act was created to afford to all Threatened and Endangered species. This is because Algonquin wolves look so much like eastern coyotes that to protect wolves, eastern coyotes would also need to be protected from hunting and trapping. The Ontario government is unwilling to do this, and so lets both species languish under lax hunting and trapping laws.
In order to advance this magnificent and essential wolf’s recovery, Earthroots hosts the Ontario Wolf Survey, a non-invasive genetic research project that was developed to find Algonquin wolves in the unprotected landscape. This vital research, a great portion of which is helped along by an incredible and dedicated team of citizen scientists, will help us understand how many of these wolves are left, where they live, and how they interact with other large canids. With this information, a meaningful recovery strategy becomes possible.
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