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Wolves in Ontario

Wolves are found throughout much of Ontario, in an area extending roughly from the southern boundary of the Canadian Shield northwards to the Hudson Bay lowlands (Figure 2).


Wolf in Algonquin Park

There are two species of wolf in Ontario: the gray wolf found in the boreal and tundra regions of the province, and the eastern wolf found in the coniferous and mixed coniferous-hardwood forests of central and northern Ontario.

Range of wolves in Ontario
Figure 1. Range of wolves in Ontario (shaded).


Coyotes, a close cousin to the wolf, co-exist well with humans and are common in the developed and agricultural areas of southern and northern Ontario. Where the ranges of eastern wolves and coyotes overlap, interbreeding makes it difficult to distinguish between eastern wolves and coyotes and they can easily be confused.


This report provides information about the current status of wolves in Ontario, the factors affecting them, and the actions Ontario is taking to help ensure the long-term health of wolf populations.



Packs and Reproduction


Generally, wolves live in pack sizes ranging from two to nine wolves, although the largest pack documented in Ontario numbered 19 wolves. The territory size of a pack depends on the availability of prey within that area. In Ontario, territory sizes have been documented to range from 100 to 1,100 square kilometres.


Typically, female wolves breed for the first time at roughly two years of age and males at around two to three years of age. Usually, only the dominant female and male in each pack breed. Breeding season extends from late January to March, and peaks during mid to late February. Roughly 63 days after mating, the female gives birth to three to eight pups, usually during mid to late April. The pups are born in den sites consisting of holes in the ground, rock caves, hollow logs, or beaver lodges.


Depending on food availability, 40 to 70 per cent of pups survive their first year. Most wolves eventually leave the pack they were born into in search of opportunities to form their own pack or to join another. The age at which they leave ranges from five months to five years, depending on the availability of prey and breeding opportunities.



Wolves help to shape ecosystems


The role of wolves in the ecosystem is complex and not yet fully understood. Their presence in Ontario's forests indicates a well-functioning, healthy landscape that supports biodiversity. Wolves are predators of mammals, particularly white-tailed deer, moose, woodland caribou, elk and beaver.


The recognized role of wolves includes:

  • helping maintain a balance of prey populations through predation on sick or weak animals as well as healthy animals
  • stimulating reproduction in prey populations, and
  • providing food for scavengers.


The Backgrounder on Wolf Conservation in Ontario provides more information about wolf ecology in Ontario.



Wolves provide economic and societal benefits


Through eco-tourism, wolf hunting and trapping, wildlife photography, etc., wolves generate economic opportunities and provide social and cultural benefits to the people of Ontario.


Annual pelt revenue varies from year to year depending on demand and pelt quality. In 2005/2006, Ontario's gross revenue, based on the average price of wolf pelts, was roughly $20,000. Additional revenue is generated from direct and indirect economic effects of harvest and from the retail of manufactured fur products.


Wolves are often depicted in literature, media and art in Ontario and many citizens have come to value wolves as a cultural symbol of the province's natural landscape. Wolves are also culturally significant for many Aboriginal groups in Ontario. In Aboriginal culture, wolves represent loyalty, cooperation, love and care for the family and community, and their pelts are often used in the preparation of Aboriginal ceremonial dress.


Related Links

This report is also available as a PDF.



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Ontario is working to help ensure the conservation of the province's wolf population and the habitat on which they depend.