Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
The grey wolf's range covers most of Canada and Alaska.

Did you know?

Young wolf cubs are fed by older pack members, who regurgitate food for them to eat. An adult wolf can hold up to 10 kilograms of meat in its stomach, certainly an efficient way to carry food back to the den.

Scientific name: Canis lupus
Average weight: 20 kg–70kg (male)
18 kg–55kg (female)
Average height: 60 cm–90 cm (at shoulder)
Average length: 130 cm–200 cm (including tail)
Average lifespan: 8–16 years in the wild
A grey wolf stares out from a forest in Alberta.

Canadian Geographic articles

The wolf man

By Roberta Walker
November/December 1992

The article provides a profile of biologist Paul Paquet and his study of the grey wolf’s return to Banff National Park. The author Roberta Walker traces the history of the pack animal over the 20th century and writes about tracking the wolf recolonization to the Banff area. She also writes about Paquet’s love for the wolves and how he has come to believe that the wolf acts on emotion and even has a sense of humour.

After being hunted out of existence in the 1950s, the wolves started filtering back to Banff National Park in the early 1980s. The park managers wanted to make sure the animals stayed this time. As a result, what began as a routine park study has grown into the Southern Rockies Canine Project, the most extensive wolf research project in North America. Since the 1980s, the recolonization of the wolves has improved the balance of the ecosystem, and park managers are determined to keep them in place.

Preservation of the wolves is Dr. Paquet’s mission, and he has been relentless in his field work. Tracking wolves in the Banff area to monitor such things as their whereabouts, precarious situation and behaviour was a bigger job than he had expected; the territories that the wolves roam are about three times larger than usual.

Significant to the study is how tracking and observation technology has evolved over the years and the part it has played in tracking wolves. For example, collared wolves can now be tracked on a home computer via satellite. However, even though technology makes it easier for researchers to track wolves year-round, Paquet believes that direct observation is still essential to understanding their social behaviour.

The ripple effect

By Candace Savage and photography by William Campbell
September/October 2003

“The ripple effect” describes the key role that Canadian wolves played in the successful reintroduction of the grey wolf to Yellowstone National Park. Science writer Candace Savage recounts how two groups of grey wolves from Canada were relocated to the park and have helped the resurging predator breathe new life there. Biologist Douglas Smith had the task of overseeing the reintroduction and of assessing the complex ways in which they are making their presence felt.

During the winter of 1995, the first group of wolves, 14 from a thriving population near Hinton, Alta., was trucked into the park, held briefly in acclimation pens, and then sent forth to make a new life for themselves. A year later, an additional 17 animals from Pink Mountain near Fort St. John, British Columbia, were introduced. The pioneering population experienced such exuberant growth that planned introductions for succeeding years were cancelled.

The immediate goal of the program was to establish at least 10 resident packs of wolves in the park and its surrounding public and private lands, an area of 73,000 square kilometres known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. At the time of this article, the objective has been long surpassed.

Smith believes “the reintroduction of grey wolves into Yellowstone has to rank as one of the most important acts of wildlife conservation in the last century.”

At least, by trimming back the over-population of some species of wildlife and increasing the population of others, the Grey Wolf Project has almost certainly opened up opportunities for trimming and/or increasing the population of other wildlife in order to balance the ecosystem.

The article ends with Smith’s statement that “In return for providing wolves for the reintroduction, Canadians have been offered a profound new vision of the relationship between life and death and a new conception of wolves, wherever we have the good fortune to find them.”

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