Across Algonquin Park (family style) Part 2: Wolves Running Wild in the Park 0

We had a layover day on Burntroot Lake. Day four and five were spent doing laundry, baking bread, swimming and heading to the southwest bay to check out the remains at the old Barnet Depot Farm and historic logging alligator.

The two days were a highlight of the trip. The weather was good and the campsite shoreline had an amazing beach, complete with a record number of frogs for Kyla to catch and two perfect trees to tie my hammock between. The best part is that we had the entire lake to ourselves. I found it odd to have such a large and glorious lake unoccupied in such a well-known park. We enjoyed not seeing anyone but also felt some concern of the dropping numbers of paddlers heading further into the interior for longer periods of time. The first two days of the trip most of the sites were taken — all by weekend warriors. It was humorous but also disconcerting to have so many of these paddlers stand there mystified on the portage when they asked us long we were out for. Twelve days, especially with a seven-year-old, seemed unreal to them. It’s definitely a different mindset. We once met a group of teenage girls halfway through a long portage, all in tears about how long they had to endure the portage and the bugs; and there was Kyla jogging past them wondering what all the fuss was about.

We altered our trip slightly on day six and made a side trip up to Catfish Lake before heading southeast towards Opeongo Lake. Alana and I had stayed on Catfish Lake years ago, well before Kyla was born, and wanted to show her our favourite campsite there. The route from Burntroot was easy enough; we crossed Perley Lake and continued down the Petewawa River. The only mishap of the day, besides a million or more deerflies buzzing over our heads, was taking the wrong portage. Not sure how I managed to do that. The trail we were suppose to take was marked on the opposite shore. Thankfully I only hiked the canoe a quarter the way to North Cuckoo Lake when I realized my mistake. It was worth it though. A young wolf ran across the trail in front of me. What an amazing experience. I’m guessing it was one of Algonquin’s notable Red or Eastern Wolves. Recently the wolves of Algonquin park have been reclassified, and by doing so, have gained extra protection.

It was always thought that the wolves in Algonquin were distinct and somewhat different than the typical Grey Wolf (Canis Iupus) of Ontario’s more northern boreal forests. They certainly look different; being much smaller and having a reddish-brown texture. Initially, researchers dating back to the 1970s, thought they were a subspecies of the Grey Wolf and were labeled Canis lupus lycaon. Soon a number of biologists began disputing the connection to the Grey Wolf and believed they were more closely related to the highly endangered Red Wolf (Canis rufus) of the southeastern United States. Many others debated the fact, clearly outright denying it actually. The labeling would give the Algonquin wolves more protection against hunting and trapping and some interest groups didn’t want that to happen. In 2000, however, DNA testing became available and members of the Algonquin Wolf Advisory Group were able to reclassify them the Eastern Canadian Wolf (Canis lycaon). The debate was over.

Recently other Eastern Wolves have been found in areas neighboring Algonquin (Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park for example) and some areas of Quebec, Manitoba and Minnesota. Algonquin’s wolves, however, are thought to be the purest form since they have not interbreed with coyotes to the degree the others have. The reason for this, of course, is that coyotes do well in urbanized areas; wolves don’t. As long as Algonquin remains relatively wild, so will the wolves.

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