The chance to hear the eerie sound of Algonquin Park wolves howling draws tourists from around the world to Canada’s Algonquin Park.
Since 1995, Northern Edge Algonquin has been offering guests the opportunity to learn about the world of the wolf from naturalist guides on our small-group nature retreat experiences.
These small groups venture into Algonquin Park near Nahma Lake here the local wolf pack was originally studied by the Theberges late in the 20th century.
Nothing makes the back of your neck tingle like earning a response from a local Algonquin Park wolf pack in the silence of the night. Responses are never guaranteed, but the small group adventurers are often greeted with additional wildlife mammal sightings which often include moose, foxes and occasionally bears. In addition, small groups get personal attention from their naturalist guides who help guests understand the ecology of the wolf and other mammals while participating in these nighttime excursions.
Back at the 130 year-old log cabin, guests also go hands-on with wildlife artifacts including antlers, skulls and bones of all manner of Algonquin Park wildlife.
In contrast to these up-close and personal wildlife experiences, Algonquin Park has offered public wolf howls that sometimes involve thousands of attendees getting in vehicles and driving down the highway 60 corridor and parking vehicles in lines on roadside shoulders many miles long. As part of the event, naturalists howl into the woods along the main highway that runs through the central Ontario provincial park, and members of the public listen for the response of eastern wolves – yipping and yapping from the pups, and deeper, longer howls from the adults
But for the past two years, those hoping to take part in a public wolf howl have been disappointed, as the events have been cancelled.
Unfortunately, Algonquin Park cancelled all five of its potential public wolf howls this year (for the second year in a row) because no suitable wolf pack was located for the events.
Typically, according to Algonquin Park naturalists, around five packs of wolves live along Highway 60. When a wolf howl is planned, naturalists go out earlier in the week to do some test howling along the highway. If wolves howl back, it usually indicates that a pack has chosen a “rendez-vous” or regrouping site near the highway. If a highway location is found that is convenient for the parking of hundreds of vehicles on roadsides then the public wolf howl is scheduled.
In general it can take hours for the many vehicles to be escorted in a miles-long queue to the howling location for these public wolf howls. Once every vehicle is safely parked, the thousand-plus participants stand in silence waiting for the naturalists to howl, and await the return howls of wolves.
Finding a location where hundreds of cars can park near a known denning site can be a challenge for Public Wolf Howl planners. Because the event draws hundreds of cars, the events need to take place along stretches of the highway that can accommodate them. Not only does there need to be space for 1.5 kilometres of cars parked bumper to bumper on both sides of the highway, but there can’t be rock cuts or hills in the vicinity that could block some of the participants from hearing the wolves’ responses as they stand beside their cars. Nor can there be wind or rain that makes it harder to hear.
Because public wolf howls draw hundreds of cars, they can only take place along stretches of the highway that can accommodate them.
While Algonquin Park proudly says the public wolf howl may be the biggest naturalist-led interpretive program in the entire world — each one can draw more than 2,000 people, guests to Algonquin Park can be much better served by a smaller excursions like those offered by Northern Edge Algonquin.