The Eastern Wolf is a subspecies of the Grey Wolf. In Canada, it is found mainly in Ontario and Quebec, where it helps to maintain the balance of forest ecosystems. Its survival is threatened by trapping, hunting, road accidents and habitat destruction. In 2001, the Eastern Wolf was designated a subspecies of special concern in Canada. To protect the Eastern Wolf in La Mauricie National Park, Parks Canada carried out a major study on wolves and continues monitoring and public education efforts.
In the Mauricie region, the territory of an Eastern Wolf pack is roughly 500–700 km2 in size. That means La Mauricie National Park’s 536 km2 (which is almost 320 times the size of Montreal’s Olympic stadium) cannot possibly sustain two wolf packs. Only certain portions of the park are used by the wolf packs that currently include the park as part of their territories.
The Eastern Wolf is fairly small and fawn-coloured, with black on its back and sides, and red-brown behind its ears. In the Mauricie region, male Eastern Wolves stand about 80 cm at the shoulders and weigh around 45 kg, while females measure about 75 cm at the shoulders and weigh approximately 28 kg.
Wolves live in organized groups, or packs. Only the dominant male and female in the pack reproduce. In spring, after a two-month gestation period, the female gives birth to a litter of five or six pups. Sexual maturity occurs at 2–3 years of age and maximum lifespan is around ten years in the wild.
Canada’s populations of Eastern Wolves, a sub-species of the Grey Wolf, are found primarily in southeastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec. This range includes La Mauricie National Park of Canada.
The Eastern Wolf needs large areas of forest- either deciduous, coniferous, or mixed- where it can find enough prey to survive. It preys on deer and moose, as well as beaver and other small game. It is a shy mammal, easily disturbed by human presence and activity.
In May 2001, COSEWIC listed the Eastern Wolf as a subspecies of special concern because it is so vulnerable to human activity.
Two wolf packs, with 5 to 10 members each, regularly roam the small, 536 km2 national park. Yet their movements often take them beyond the park’s boundaries, where they are no longer protected.
Eastern Wolves often fall victim to trapping, hunting and road traffic. They are timid and easily disturbed by logging and recreational activities. Critical wolf habitat continues to be lost to agriculture, the timber industry, and urban expansion.
Many people have misguided perceptions about wolves. Some are afraid of wolves. Others view them as predators that threaten livestock and wildlife like deer and moose. People often don’t realize how important wolves are to ecosystem health.
The Eastern Wolf is an important part of La Mauricie National Park’s ecosystem. It feeds on prey like deer and moose, helping keep populations of these large herbivores at natural, balanced levels. This helps maintain both the diversity and richness of park vegetation and, as a result, the ecological integrity of the park’s entire forest ecosystem
To meet the challenge of protecting the Eastern Wolf, La Mauricie National Park is currently focusing on research, monitoring and education.
In partnership with the Université de Sherbrooke, La Mauricie National Park conducted a major study from 2000 to 2003. Researchers followed 16 radio-collared wolves around a 3500 km2 study area to better understand how these elusive animals live. The study area included lands inside and outside the park.
Findings confirm, among other things, that there was enough prey and habitat in the study area to meet the needs of the two wolf packs and even permit population growth. Yet when the wolves travel beyond the boundaries of the park, they are trapped or shot at a rate that will likely result in population declines. Their survival therefore depends on cooperation from stakeholders in the region.
Using information gathered through the research program, Parks Canada is taking steps to ensure the survival of the Eastern Wolf, particularly by:
- developing a conservation strategy for protecting Eastern Wolves inside and outside the park; and
- creating and implementing an education program about the importance of wolves to the region’s forest ecosystems, in order to change people’s perceptions of the wolf.
Hopefully, Eastern Wolf populations will stabilize and even grow in and around La Mauricie National Park once the conservation strategy is implemented.
In the meantime, the two wolf packs in and around La Mauricie National Park are still being monitored. Parks Canada is seeking to understand how the wolves use their habitat inside and outside the park, and to determine the long-term impacts of human activity on these populations.
In addition, the Eastern Wolf is now considered to be an indicator of the ecological integrity of La Mauricie National Park. In other words, the condition of wolf populations will be used as an indicator to determine the health of the park’s ecosystems.
The park is also continuing to educate local communities and visitors through its Eastern Wolf education program. Developed in collaboration with Info-Nature Mauricie, an association that works in cooperation with the park, the program includes exhibits, interpretative activities, publications and conferences. An educational kit for Cycle 3 (grade 5 and 6) elementary school students is also available on request and is provided free of charge to schools.
- Visit La Mauricie National Park of Canada to learn more about the Eastern Wolf.
- Take part in one of many learning activities on the Eastern Wolf organised by the park’s naturalists and visit the Park’s Interpretation Centre.
- Learn about the Eastern Wolf and tell others about its important role in the ecosystem.