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Public Wolf Howls

As of August 2022, Ontario Parks ended the popular Public Wolf Howl program in Algonquin Park. See below for more details.

History of Public Wolf Howls in Algonquin Park

Public Wolf Howls - Howling Wolf"Wolf howling" as it is understood in Algonquin Park is a term coined in the early 1960s to describe the act of "going out and howling like a wolf in an attempt to stimulate the howling of wild wolves."

The process was used extensively in Algonquin Park during a wolf research program conducted from 1958 to 1965 by Douglas H. Pimlott for the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests (now Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry). After using the wolf howling technique to find and monitor packs of wolves for research purposes. In the early 1960s, the naturalist staff at the Park Museum were fielding many questions about the howling (either of the wolves or the researchers) and wanted to learn more.

Formal Public Wolf Howl programs began on August 17, 1963, after an announcement was placed in The Raven, the Algonquin Park newsletter, inviting Park visitors to an expedition where Park visitors could potentially hear wild wolves respond after a human imitation of their howl. When a few staff casually went down to the appointed meeting location at the Two Rivers Picnic Ground on August 17, 1963, they soon found a traffic jam of 180 vehicles and over 600 people - a contradiction to the widely held belief that few people would turn out. On that evening, visitors were led to a location by Park staff where they heard a faint reply from one wolf after a human imitation of a wolf howl.

In the early years (1964-1968), Public Wolf Howls were held intermittently, mainly because of logistical problems, poor success getting replies with no or little advanced scouting, and partly because the populations of wolves adjacent to Highway 60 was largely eliminated in the last phase of a wolf research program (which sought to determine the sex and age structure of the study population).

From 1969 to 2021, Public Wolf Howls were conducted annually on Thursdays in August, or in September before Labour Day, when weather and accessible wolves permitted. Park visitors met at the Outdoor Theatre for a presentation on wolf ecology and the changing perceptions of this elusive animal; event protocol was provided; and then the group travelled by car (on rare occasions, walked) to a place along Highway 60 where wild wolves might answer the imitations given by the Naturalist staff. The only disruption to this extremely popular interpretive program was cancellations in 2020 and 2021 for health-related restriction involving the COVID-19 pandemic and large gatherings.

In the 2000s, the Government of Canada named Algonquin Park’s Public Wolf Howling program as a Canadian Signature Experience, representing the best activities to experience in Canada.

The End of Public Wolf Howls in Algonquin Park

In August 2022, Ontario Parks ended the extremely popular Public Wolf Howl program in Algonquin Park. Ontario Parks made the decision based on the following factors:

  • wildlife viewing ethics
  • carbon footprint reductions
  • temporary Highway 60 closures
  • staffing constraints

At the time of the cancellation of the Public Wolf Howl Program, Ontario Parks announced it was "excited to offer different programming opportunities about wolves while honouring the parks ecological integrity and ethical responsibilities." For current programming offerings see the Algonquin Park Events Calendar.

For more about the history of Public Wolf Howling in Algonquin Park see Wolf Howling in Algonquin Provincial Park, published by The Friends of Algonquin Park.

Synopsis of Public Wolf Howls

The last successful Public Wolf Howl in Algonquin Park was #116 on August 15, 2013.

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