Wolves may be found throughout Alberta's mountains, foothills, and boreal areas. In the province, wolves are not considered uncommon or endangered. Territories of gray wolves can extend from 250 to 750 square kilometers (97 to 282 square miles).
Their range has increased over time due to successful lawsuits by conservation groups. From 1980 to 2010, federal courts ruled that wolves were not classed as a game species and so could not be killed without cause. The courts also ordered that more should be done to protect them. Since then, provincial governments have assumed responsibility for wolf management.
Since 1980, when the last federal lawsuit was settled, numbers of wolves in Alberta have increased from about 30 to 95. That's even though legal hunting remains available during certain times of year.
The increase is thought to be due to better protection and health care for orphaned animals. There are currently about 100 wolves in Montana, which does not have a formal breeding program. In 2008, after several years of efforts, four young wolves were released into the wild near Yellowstone National Park. They had been raised in captivity by scientists who study wolves. The project was designed to expand the population and provide genetic diversity.
In Canada, wolves are classified as "species at risk" under the Species At Risk Act (SARA). This means that government agencies are required to develop plans to conserve them.
Saskatchewan is extending its wolf hunt in order to minimize cattle predation near provincial forests. Wolves can be hunted between March 15 and March 31 in wildlife management zones 43, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55, and 68N. Residents of Saskatchewan are eligible for licenses, however there is no limit on the number of licenses available. License sales support conservation efforts by funding research and education programs related to wolf ecology and behavior.
Wolves were originally protected in Canada as a means of protecting livestock, but that protection was removed in 2011 when Canada's Conservative government eliminated all federal protections for the species. Since then, several provinces have taken steps to allow their respective wolf populations to recover. In 2016, Manitoba became the first province to bring back hunting of wolves when it opened its season for one year only. No limits were put on how many wolves could be killed.
In 2017, Saskatchewan began allowing hunters to use rifles to kill wolves. The aim is to reduce cattle attacks on farmers' crops and vehicles. A license is required for each person shooting at wolves and a limit of three animals can be killed per day. Hunters should stay within 100 meters of any livestock or farm buildings and not shoot at dogs. Violations of these rules could result in fines up to $50,000 or six months in prison.
Wolves remain protected under Canadian law and anyone found killing them could face up to five years in prison.
Since before European arrival in North America, there have been extensive wolf populations over most of Ontario. Moose, caribou, deer, and beaver are the most common prey for wolves in the area. However, when hunting large animals, wolves will eat anything that is heavy enough. In winter, wolves will eat snowdogs.
There are currently about 7,000 wolves in Canada, of which over half are in Ontario. Wolves are present in every province except Prince Edward Island. They are found in all but four Canadian provinces: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Utah.
In southern Ontario, near the border with Georgia, there are believed to be between 100 and 150 wolves. This is the only known population in North America. The majority of these wolves live within the boundaries of the Hiawatha National Park. It is possible that there are more than 100 wolves in this small area of the world. But because they live so isolated from other wolves, scientists can't be sure.
Wolves were once found across most of North America, but due to loss of habitat and increased human activity, they are now restricted to remote parts of northern Canada and south-western Ontario.