Species Profile

Eastern Wolf

Scientific Name: Canis sp. cf. lycaon
Other/Previous Names: Eastern Grey Wolf,Grey Wolf,Canis lupus lycaon ,Canis lycaon
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: Ontario, Quebec
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2015
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Eastern Wolf

Eastern Wolf Photo 1



The taxonomy of the Eastern Wolf is under debate; in the COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report (2015) the Eastern Wolf is considered to be Canis sp. c.f. lycaon, a wildlife species as defined under SARA that is worthy of conservation because of its distinctiveness, persistence, and significance as a large carnivore, and likely part of the last remnant population of the large Canis from eastern North America. The Eastern Wolf is an intermediate-sized canid weighing an average 24 kg for females and 29 kg for males. Pelage often is described as reddish-brown/tawny, but is highly variable.


Distribution and Population

The current distribution of Eastern Wolves is thought to be restricted to the mixed coniferous-deciduous forests of central Ontario and southwestern Québec, namely the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest Region. Eastern Wolves were extirpated from most of their original range in North America due to eradication of large Canis over much of the past 400 years. The estimated minimum population size is 236 mature individuals, mainly located within protected areas. There is little population trend information outside of Algonquin Park, the site with the most Eastern Wolf records to date, which appears to be stable.



Eastern Wolves typically occur in deciduous and mixed forest landscapes with low human density, south of the Boreal Forest Region. Both den and rendezvous sites tend to be located in conifer/hardwood-dominated landscapes near a permanent water source. Territory size is often near 200 km2.



Eastern Wolves live in family-based packs composed of a breeding pair and offspring from the current and previous years. Females give birth to an average of five pups in late April - early May and they remain at the den site for 6 - 8 weeks. Dispersing juveniles leave the pack after 37 weeks. Eastern Wolves diet constitute mainly of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Moose (Alces americanus) and Beaver (Castor canadensis).



The main threat for Eastern Wolves outside the protected areas likely is human-caused mortality from hunting and trapping, which is facilitated by road networks. Based on research in Algonquin Park, excessive mortality likely limits dispersal, and alters pack breeding dynamics, leading to another main threat, gene introgression (hybridization) with Eastern Coyotes due to the lack of conspecific mates. Habitat loss and fragmentation associated with road networks and urbanization is expected to continue outside protected areas and likely will deter population expansion. Negative public attitudes towards wolves, and established Eastern Coyote territories, may limit population expansion.



Federal Protection

The Eastern Wolf is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

6 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Eastern Wolf Canis sp. cf. lycaon in Canada (2016)

    The Eastern Wolf (putatively Canis lycaon, formerly Canis lupus lycaon) is an intermediate-sized canid weighing an average 24 kg for females and 29 kg for males. Pelage often is described as reddish-brown/tawny, but is highly variable. The Eastern Wolf is best defined by a combination of genetic distinctiveness, morphological characters, and an ecological role associated with a feeding preference for smaller prey than fed on by Gray Wolf (C. lupus).

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Eastern Wolf (2015)

    This species is an intermediate-sized canid with a generally reddish-brown/tawny coat. It has a small population size (likely < 1000 individuals) and a restricted range, limited to south-central Ontario and south-central Quebec. Most records come from scattered protected areas, where mortality and rates of hybridization with Eastern Coyotes occurs less frequently than elsewhere in its range. Population expansion is unlikely, owing to competition with Eastern Coyote and increased mortality outside protected areas.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Eastern Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) in Canada (2017)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Eastern Wolf and has prepared this management plan, as per section 65 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the governments of Ontario and Quebec, as per section 66(1) of SARA.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2014-2015 (2015)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2014 to September, 2015) from November 23 to November 28, 2014 and from April 27 to May 1, 2015. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2014-2015 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 1 Endangered: 21 Threatened: 11 Special Concern: 21 Data Deficient: 1 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 24 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act : Terrestrial Species - January 2016 (2016)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments byMay 4, 2016, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 4, 2016, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017