Algonquin Provincial Park, about 4 hours north of Toronto, is one of only two places where one can see wild Red Wolves. The genetics of the Red (or Eastern) Wolf is something of a mystery to me. The IUCN Redlist entry claims that the Red Wolf only exists in the wild near Alligator River in North Carolina and then that there are “suspected Red Wolf-type Wolves” in Algonquin. The people are Algonquin don’t seem to harbour many doubts though, even if the wolves have a little Coyote in them, they seem to be the real deal and unlike wolves elsewhere in the eastern half of north America have stayed genetically pure.
I only went up for a couple of nights at the end of March and though I didn’t see a Wolf, I came closer than I’d expected to. Ian Shanahan, one of the park’s naturalists, was extremely helpful before I arrived. He told me some areas of the park where wolves had recently been seen. And when I got there, Rick Stonks, the senior naturalist, was also super helpful. Canadians it seems, really are as friendly as the movies make out.
In a nutshell, the best way to see a Wolf would be to visit during the height of winter if and when the park put out a deer carcass in front of the visitors centre. This seems certain to attract wolves and in early March a road-killed moose carcass saw wolves visiting every day for about 3 weeks (though most of these visits were at night, or early in the morning it seems). They do not put out carcasses in the summer (they would attract bears an animal Algonquin boasts a healthy population of). There was no carcass when I was there so my best bet was to patrol the park road and hope to get lucky. The road is a natural boundary between several packs’ territories and lone animals will often stay close to the road as they prefer to travel in between the territories of others. I arrived on Friday evening and apparently just missed a very rare sight: a wolf had been sleeping all afternoon out on the ice of Lake at Two Rivers, in the middle of the park. Many had seen it. Damn. The next morning I patrolled the road at dawn and somehow missed a wolf that had been spotted at 8.20 about a kilometre from where I was driving. These two near misses were close enough for me to want to visit again!
The other mammal in Algonquin I was keen to see was a Fisher. Again, they are not uncommon but are quite rarely seen, though one had been on the bird feeder at the visitor centre a few days before I arrived. A Marten was a more regular visitor to the same feeder. I wasn’t lucky. Though in 36 hours I saw a Woodchuck (an uncommon sighting), a Beaver and what might have been an Otter crossing the road, along with several Red Squirrels and Eastern Chipmunks.
Its a gorgeous park and I will definitely return.