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Wolves in Ontario

What is the Status of Wolves in Ontario?


Determining the number of wolves is a challenge for wildlife biologists. Wolves have a secretive nature, generally avoid human contact and are normally present in low densities (number of wolves in an area).


Wolf densities vary across Ontario based on available prey, habitat and other factors. The tundra regions of Ontario have 0.2 wolf per 100 square km compared to central Ontario with 1 wolf per 100 square km, with the highest known density of 3 wolves per 100 square km in Algonquin Provincial Park.


Biologists currently estimate the number of wolves in Ontario to be over 8,000. This estimate was determined by looking at the availability of key prey species across Ontario and the number of wolves in other areas of North America with similar prey and landscape features to Ontario. Surveys now under way will help provide a more reliable estimate of the population size of Ontario’s wolves.


The long-term outlook for wolves in Ontario is good, based on the vast areas of suitable habitat across Ontario, the availability of prey and current conservation practices.



What shapes Ontario's Wolf Populations?


Factors that influence the number of wolves in Ontario include hunting and trapping, habitat, development, disease and competition with other wolves.


Through mandatory reporting that was implemented in the last half of 2005, hunters will help provide wildlife biologists with more accurate wolf harvest information over the long term.


The number of wolves harvested by trappers fluctuates each year (Figure 2). In the 2005/2006 trapping season, trappers reported 396 wolves harvested.


Wolves harvested by trappers

Figure 3. Number of Wolves harvested by trappers per year since 1990/1991.


Habitat availability:
Wolf populations increase and decrease in response to changes in their habitat. Loss of habitat to human settlement and agriculture may cause local declines in wolves populations, while agriculture and new forest growth after fires and forest harvesting can allow prey populations to grow providing an increased food supply for wolves.


Diseases that naturally occur in the wild such as canine distemper and canine parvovirus, and parasites such as sarcoptic mites (which cause mange), may result in local declines in wolf populations.


Competition with other wolves:
Fighting between wolves can cause serious or even fatal injuries, and generally occurs in order to:

  • protect a territory or pack from the intrusion of other wolves
  • maintain or achieve dominance within a particular pack (and therefore reproductive status)
  • gain or protect access to a prey carcass, particularly when prey availability within the territory is low.