Travelling in wolf country

Alberta’s wilderness offers many opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, but that same wilderness may include the range of wolves and other large carnivores. If your next outdoor adventure takes you into areas occupied by wolves, you should learn how to avoid human-wolf encounters whenever possible, and how to respond if you do encounter a wolf.

Gray wolf (Canis lupus) facts

Size and appearance

  • The gray wolf is the largest member of the wild dog family. An adult may weigh up to 60 kilograms (130 pounds).
  • Fur is commonly gray with dark shading, but may vary in colour from near black to almost white.
  • Coats are long and dense.
  • Face is broad with a muzzle that is less pointed than a coyote's.
  • Ears are thickly furred.
  • Large feet aid in travelling over snow.

Where found

  • There are approximately 7000 wolves in Alberta. Wolves can live anywhere there is enough prey, a safe site to den and little interference from people.
  • In Alberta, wolves are found in mountain, foothill and boreal regions. Wolves are not considered rare or endangered in the province.
  • Gray wolf territories can range from 250 to 750 square kilometres (97 to 282 square miles).
  • Historically, the gray wolf once included grasslands in Alberta, but its current habitat is restricted to forested areas.
  • Wolves are re-establishing themselves in a number of regions (such as the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot area) that they had previously been removed from.

Notable behaviours

  • Wolves are social animals found in packs numbering from 2 to over 20. Pack size tends to be largest in winter.
  • The wolf pack, a cohesive family-group, travels, hunts and rests together. Packs commonly include a pair of breeding adults and their pups, as well as yearlings or extra adults.
  • The wolf's howl helps wolves communicate across long distances and also helps to establish pack territories.

Reducing conflicts with wolves

Before you go

  • Contact a Fish and Wildlife office. Find out if wolf or other wildlife activity has been reported in the area you are about to visit.
  • Leave your dog at home. If you must bring your dog, ensure it is kept close and on a leash at all times.
  • Talk to those in your group. Make an informed plan for how the group will respond if you see a wolf.
  • Charge your cell phone batteries and pack your cell phone.

When in wolf country

Keep dogs on a leash

People walking their dogs in an area where there are wolves are advised to keep their dogs on a leash – which is the law in Alberta Parks - and avoid walking their dogs through wooded areas at dawn, dusk and at night. A leashed dog will be less likely to roam and attract the notice of a wolf (or other large predator).

Wolves see domestic dogs as prey or as competition – either way, an off-leash dog can draw the attention of wolves if they are nearby. You will be better able to deter an approaching wolf if your dog is close to you, on leash and under control.

Keep food out of reach

Wolves are wary of humans and will generally keep themselves hidden. Wolves that have been fed may approach camps, homes or people because they have lost their fear of humans.

  • When camping, prevent wolves from learning that humans are a source of food. Store all food, toiletries and garbage where wolves – and other wildlife – can’t reach it.
  • Do not intentionally feed wolves. Nearly all wolf attacks on humans are the result of food-conditioning.
  • Cook, wash dishes and store food at least 100 metres (328 feet) from where you sleep.
  • Pack out all garbage and leftover food.

If you encounter a wolf

  • Leave it an escape route.
  • Don’t approach the wolf, entice it to come closer or offer it food.
  • If the wolf approaches closer than 90 metres (approx. 300 feet), or growls or snarls:
    • Show the wolf that you are not easy prey. Make yourself look bigger by waving your arms over your head.
    • Make noise and throw rocks, sticks or other objects at the wolf.
    • Back away slowly, watching for a place of safety. Don’t turn your back on the wolf.

Contact

Report a wolf encounter by calling your local Fish and Wildlife office at:

After regular business hours, call the Report A Poacher line at: 1-800-642-3800.