Find the best places to hunt Wolf in Canada and discover the Wolve's Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status.

Provinces with Wolf Hunting

Nunavut Resident and Non-Resident
Yukon Resident and Non-Resident
North West Territories Resident and Non-Rssident
British Columbia Resident and Non-Resident
Alberta Resident and Non-Resident
Saskatchewan Limited 200 tag hunt - no open hunt
Manitoba Resident and Non-Resident
Ontario Resident and Non-Resident
Quebec Resident and Non-Resident
New Foundland - Labrador Resident and Non-Resident

Wolf Paw

Wolf Paw

Wolf Scat

Wolf Scat

The appearance of wolf scat will vary by what it has consumed. Appearing rope-like, you may see fragments of hair and bone remains of its’ prey. Fecal matter may appear loose if it has been freshly left right after eating a bloody kill. Generally it will be tapered to a point at one end and the scat will be about 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1.25 – 3.8 cm) in diameter and most times it will be larger than 1.0 inch (2.54 cm). 

 Wolf Range Map of Canada

Wolf Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Range and Distribution of Gray Wolf

With over 60,000 wolves in Canada, they are considered a big game species even though they are hunting with small game permits in some provinces.

  • Northwest Territories – 5,000
  • Nunavut – 5,000
  • Yukon -5,000
  • British Columbia - 8,500 wolves.
  • Alberta - 4,200
  • Saskatchewan - 4,300
  • Manitoba - 4,000 to 6,000
  • Ontario - 9,000
  • Quebec - 5,000
  • Labrador - 2,000.

Gray wolves are environmental generalists and can inhabit most any terrain. For example, in Alberta, they occupy the Rocky Mountains, Foothills, and Boreal Forest Regions of the province. So it is not surprising to see that they are found throughout Canada in a variety of environments which will include forests, tundra, deserts, and mountains. The only notable exclusions are the prairie grasslands of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. They are not found in the southern maritime provinces either.

Many factors come into play when considering the habitat of the wolf. Factors like availability and quantity of prey, current land use, road densities, snow fall, land contour, and human disturbance. 

Description of Gray Wolf - Canis lupus

The Gray Wolf is the largest member of the dog family and its physical characteristics are similar to a dog. The Gray Wolf exhibits the following features: A narrow chest, long legs, a lengthened head, its paws are flexible, large and turned outwards, 4 toes on the hind-foot and 5 on the front foot, non-retractable claws, large foot pads, a long straight trail and white fur around its mussel. The construction of its legs and feet lend themselves to speed and an ability to move in deep snow.

The color of individual wolves can vary a lot. They appear German Shepard like in appearance, all white, all black, cream, grey, brown, buff, and mixed coloring and all tend to grey with age. Its’ under coat is made up of soft, short, fine, dense under hairs. Then long stiff guard hairs 2.3 – 4 inches (60-100 mm) long arranged in irregular rows give the wolf its color. It has a mane on the back of its neck and shoulders that are made up of erectable hairs that can be raised when it is enraged.

Male wolves will weigh 44 – 176 lbs. (20 - 80 kg.), have an overall length of 4.3 – 5.25 ft. (1.3 - 1.6 m.) and a shoulder height of 26 – 31 ins. (66 - 81 cm.). Females will weigh 35 – 121 lbs. (16 - 55 kg.), and be 4.5 – 4.9 ft. (1.4 - 1.5 m.) long.

It has a large nasal cavity and its ability to detect scent is 14 times greater than ours.

Its dental formula consists of: Incisors (3/3), Canine (1/1), Pre-molar (4/4), Molar (2/3).

The average lifespan of the wolf is a short 3–4 years but 15 years olds have been recorded.

The wolf is inclined to live in a pack. Generally the pack consists of up to 36 wolves (when prey is abundant) but packs between 5 and 12 individuals with a dominant male and female (called the alpha pair), their cubs, and their offspring from past litters is the norm. The hierarchy within the pack is quite rigid and structured. Hierarchy determines, who eats first, who baby sits the current litter of pups, who goes hunting with the pack, and who mates (generally, only the alpha pair mates).

The alpha pair mate for life and hierarchy is communicated between individuals of the pack through their facial expressions, and body language. Language like crouching on the ground, rolling over to expose its underbelly, and tail position (tucked under).

The long forlorn howl of a wolf is a characteristic call of this animal. Through howling, pack members can locate each other when separated, tell of found food, rally the pack together for a hunt, warn other packs away, and form social bonds.

Their daily activities will include patrolling of established trails, old / new logging roads, and shorelines of lakes and rivers in search of prey and to maintain scent marking of the territory. These daily patrols can range from few kilometres to a hundred kilometres. The wolves maintain more or less a fixed territory. The exception to that comes with wolf packs that rely on the Caribou population as their source of prey. In mountainous regions, the Wolf may make an elevation change from the mountain slopes to the valley bottoms during the winter.

The size of a wolves’ home range size is in relation to the size of the pack. A packs home range can be anywhere from 33 to 6,200 km2 depending on the species of wolf, terrain, and food abundance. On average, it will be around 35 km2.

Dispersing Wolves will try to join another pack or create a territory of their own within 50-100 km of their natal pack. The risk for the lone wolf is that packs are quite territorial and will often kill lone Wolves.

Northwestern Wolf - C. l. occidentalis

Northwestern Wolf

Northwestern wolf
Photo By Ellie Attebery - Standing Wolf, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29794044 

Also known as the Alaskan timber wolf, Mackenzie Valley wolf, Canadian timber wolf, or northern timber wolf is the Northwestern subspecies of gray wolf. Its range includes the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories. This subspecies occupies a 600 sq. mi. range on average.

The northwestern wolf is one of the biggest subsets of wolf with British Columbia boasting the larges males that may weigh between 100 and 135 pounds (45 – 61 kg)

This species of wolf can efficiently hunt larger ungulates like caribou, elk, moose and bison.

 

Great Plains Wolf - C. l. nubilus

Great Plains Wolf

Great Plains Wolf
 Photo By Peupleloup - Own work, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2457829

The Great Plains Wolf may also be called the buffalo wolf, dusky wolf or loafer wolf. This subspecies of gray wolf current range includes most of the Territory of Nunavut and the entire provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Labrador.

This subspecies is a medium-sized and most specimens are light in color with some black individual’s occurring. The weight for a full grown male is typically 100 lb (45 kg). However, some large individuals have been recorded to weigh as much as 150 lb (68 kg).  

 

Arctic Wolf - C. l. arctos

Arctic Wolf

Photo By Dan Weaver - Flickr

The arctic wolf may be referred to as the Melville Island Wolf, the Polar Wolf or White Wolf and inhabits the Arctic regions of the North West Territory and Nunavut Territory. It also overlaps some of it distribution with the Great Plains Wolf in Nunavut.

This wolf is smaller in size than the Northwestern Wolf and its guard hair is whiter, has a narrower skull, and larger carnassials.

The arctic wolfs’ principle targets are the muskox and Arctic hare. They will also target lemmings, Arctic foxes, birds and beetles in their quest for food.

 

Eastern Wolf - C. l. lycaon

Eastern Wolf

Eastern Timber Wolf
 

The Eastern Wolf is the smallest of Canada’s wolves and is also recognized as the eastern timber wolf, Algonquin Wolf or Deer Wolf.  It is a medium sized wolf that weighs around 44 – 77 lbs. (20 - 35 kg.) and is found in the forests of Southern Ontario and a small portion of Quebec.

It is thought that the smaller physical size of this wolf was created through evolution by the fact that its main source of prey is the white-tailed deer and beaver. Its size is between that of a coyote and its larger cousin the gray wolf. Female wolves weigh an average of 53 lb. (23.9 kg.) and males weigh 67 lb. (30.3 kg.).

The eastern wolf's fur is typically a grayish-brown color mixed with cinnamon red. The sides of its body between the ribs and hips along with its chest are a rust or creamy color. The back of its neck, shoulders and tail may be a combination of black and gray. The eastern wolves rarely produce black colored offspring.

The average territorial range of this wolf is between 110–185 km².

 

Mexican Wolf - C. l. baileyi

Mexican Wolf

Mexican Wolf
By Ltshears - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6700074 

Also known as the lobo, the Mexican wolf, is the smallest of North America's gray wolves and does not occur in Canada

 

Diet and Foraging Strategy

Wolf Pack Hunting

By Martin Cathrae (Timber Wolves Fighting  Uploaded by Mariomassone) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Gray Wolf is an opportunistic meat eater. Their diet may include hares, rabbits, Beaver, Fox, ground squirrels, rodents, fish, crayfish, fruit, grass, and insects. However, preference is given to large hoofed animals like whitetail deer, mule deer, caribou, Elk, Moose, Muskoxen, Bighorn and Dall sheep and Mountain Goats making up 80-90% of their diet. Most of the wolfs’ prey are able to outrun and elude a solitary wolf. This is where the role of the pack comes into play, with the pack deploying a co-operative hunting strategy of diversionary tactics.

The strategy of the hunt is to isolate and encircle its intended victim. Once the victim stands, a series of frontal attacks are pretended while other members of the pack attack from the rear. The key here is to attack the rear legs of the victim (or neck of smaller prey like moose calves and deer fawns), immobilize it, and bring it down.

Gray Wolves will avoid feeding on carrion, but will successfully steal a kill from a bear or other animal with a fresh kill.

The wolf pack may have to exist weeks without a fresh kill. But once the kill is made, members of the pack will feed in order of their ranking and a Wolf may consume as much as 20 lbs (9 kg) of the kill at its first feeding. While the pack is raising pups it will require a higher kill rate in order to meet the needs and demands of the pups.

It is often said that wolves help keep prey populations healthy by targeting the weak, old and sick. However, the down side is that a wolf pack is more likely to target the younger upcoming generation of targeted ungulates. This selective killing of the young is in my eyes detrimental to the species targeted.

Breeding and Reproduction of Gray Wolf

Wolf Pups in Den

Photo By US Fish and Wildlife Service - Flickr

The gray wolf generally has only one mate at a time and that relationship stays intact until one of the pair dies. When one of the mated pairs dies the survivor quickly re-establishes a new mate. In most wolf packs, males outnumber the females and unpaired females are rare. 

Wolves are able to rear pups at a younger age if the conditions are right. This age breeds depends largely on factors in the wolves surroundings: The availability of food and the size of the pack are a couple of those factors. In the wild, the age of 2 years is probably the youngest age where you could anticipate a wolf to breed.

Female wolves are able to produce one litter of pups annually with no limit due to their age. In late winter, the older females that have had already had a litter will enter estrus 2–3 weeks earlier than their younger counterparts. After mating the gestation period for the female will last 62–75 days and the litters of dissimilar colored pups are usually produced in the spring-summer time.

During pregnancy, female wolves will establish and reside in dens neared the center of the packs territory. This strategy is to reduce the likely hood of meeting members of a rival pack. Those females which have had litters already will usually choose the den that they have previous used while first time females will likely den near their birthplace.

Nursing mother wolves will not leave their dens for these first few weeks and rely on the males ability to provide food for both of them and her young.

The average size of a litter will be 5-6 pups, however litter sizes tend to be larger when prey is in abundance and large litters of 14-17 have been recorded. The young weigh 10.6 – 17.6 oz. (300 - 500 gm.) at birth and they are born blind and deaf. The pups will have sight in about 9-12 days, will first come out of their den at 3 weeks, begin to play fight at this time produce their canines (teeth) at 4 weeks, begin to eat meat at 3-4 weeks, at 6 weeks they are large and strong enough to be able to run from threats, and will determine their ranking in the pack at 5-8 weeks.

During the first 4 months of a wolf pups’ life it has a fast growth rate. It will increase its weight nearly 30 times and by the time the fall come around they are large and mature enough to go with the adults on hunts for large prey.

Eventually it is time for the young wolf to move out on its’ own and this time tends to happen in January or February. When at the age of 1-2 years; they are often driven away due to aggression over food and lack of mates.

The homeless male gray wolf will try to join another pack or may try to form his own pack it he can find a homeless unpaired mate. When neither of these two options is open he may breed with the daughter of a breeding pair from another pack. Scientists call this behaviour a “Casanova Wolf” because he will not join the pack of the female that he has mated with nor does he actually establish a pair bond with her

In situations where pups are stranded through either parental death or abandonment, Gray Wolves will take care of pups in the pack that are not their own offspring.

Status of the wolf in Canada

Wolves Howling

Wolves Howling
Photo by Rodrigo.Vergara - Flickr

The northwestern Wolf is listed as Not At Risk, April 1999.

The eastern Wolf is listed as Threatened, May 2015.

Because of its isolation in the arctic, the Arctic wolf is not threatened by hunting and habitat developments the same way as its southern relatives are.  

It is maintained by preservationists that wolves help keep prey populations healthy by targeting the weak, old and sick. However, the down side is that a wolf pack is more likely to target the younger upcoming generation of targeted ungulates. This selective killing of the young is in my eyes detrimental to the species targeted.

Past practices involved the use of a Government sponsored bounties that were designed to control the population and possible extermination of the wolf. By the start of 1973 most of those bounty programs ceased to exist and now only sub provincial regions and the Northwest Territories offer such programs.

Most provinces and territories with wolf populations now try to control them through Hunting and Trapping management.

The hunting of wolves is done under regional, seasonal, and bag-limit regulations that employ fair chase and use of firearms. Trapping regulations will limit licensed trappers to a controlled season but generally do not limit possession limits for wolf hides.

References

  • http://lcvirtualwildlife.ca/index.php/graywolf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwestern_wolf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_wolf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Plains_wolf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_wolf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_wolf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gray_wolf_populations_by_country
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_wolf
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/wolf.html
  • http://dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/about_gray_wolves.asp
  • http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=608
  • http://www.albertaregulations.ca/huntingregs/gameregs.html

Photo Credits - Article

  • Wolf Paw - US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Wolf Scat - http://dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/about_gray_wolves.asp

Photo Credits - Background

Angell Williams - Flickr

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