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Wolf pack protection plan

Discover the conservation measures and efforts undertaken by Parc national du Mont-Tremblant to protect the wolves.

Since wolves are present throughout the territory, there’s a chance you’ll hear them howl when you stay overnight at Parc national du Mont-Tremblant. © Shutterstock
Since wolves are present throughout the territory, there’s a chance you’ll hear them howl when you stay overnight at Parc national du Mont-Tremblant.

Parc national du Mont-Tremblant area

In the past dozen years or so, Parc national du Mont-Tremblant has developed a number of tools for the management of and harmonious cohabitation with the wolves within its boundaries, acquiring considerable knowledge in the process. The drafting of Plan de protection des loups du parc national du Mont-Tremblant is part of this overall approach regarding the presence of these top predators. The plan aims to provide a better framework for Sépaq’s actions, to ensure the protection of the wolf packs present within the park. As mentioned by several authors, the key challenge of such conservation measures is to strike a balance with regard to cohabitation with these large carnivores so as to limit flight or avoidance behavior in areas frequented by humans.

Analysis of the telemetric data from the wolves monitored during the study in the park showed that the wolves tended to avoid accommodation structures as well as roads and the most popular trails at all times during the year, despite a certain tolerance during peak tourism season. This observation is in keeping with the results of several other studies, including one conducted in Western Canada that noted that in three national parks located in the Rockies, wolves tended to avoid a 50-meter-wide strip adjacent to trails, a buffer that extended to 400 meters where there was foot traffic of more than two people per hour. Another study on wolf–human interaction noted that a wolf patrolling its territory will stop what it is doing when it perceives a bear or human within 200 meters, and will stay still until the intruder moves further away.

The denning and rendezvous site periods are the most critical periods for the survival of these large canids, given that the presence of wolf cubs makes the pack less mobile. For this reason, several authors recommend maintaining a buffer radius of two to three kilometers around a known den site, to avoid the pack having to relocate at the time the pups are born, adding that the survival of the wolf cubs, due to their lower mobility, hinges more on the period of the year than on the intensity and type of human activity.

Legend: Restricted-access roads and trails, Lac des Mocassins backcountry, Service zone, Ambience zone, Preservation zone, Roads, Summer trails, Winter trails, Park boundary


Plan de protection des loups du parc national du Mont-Tremblant proposes a protective perimeter around the most sensitive sites, as well as guidelines surrounding participation in activities within the park based on the time of year. Following are a few examples:

  • Protection measures vary depending on zoning within the park. New projects and work within service and ambience zones require a more attentive characterization by a technician within a radius of 500 meters, in order to validate wolf activity. In preservation zones, work must be subject to a summary characterization study for signs of wolves. In all cases, a work plan must be submitted in advance and approved by the person in charge of conservation and education.
  • Maintenance work:
    • Service and ambience zones:
      • Active den: No maintenance work between March 15 and July 31 AND no maintenance work within 1,500 meters
      • Active rendezvous site: No maintenance work between August 1 and September 30 AND no maintenance work within 500 meters
    • Preservation zone:
    • No maintenance work between March 15 and September 30 AND no maintenance work within 2,500 meters of an active den or rendezvous site
  • Activities available to the public: Adapted access to the road network and hiking trails based on the biological period of the wolves and on dens and rendezvous sites known to be active
  • No access to the Lac des Mocassins backcountry between March 15 and September 30
  • Delayed opening of fishing lakes on Route 15 (Le Boulé sector) until after July 31
  • Closure of Route 15 between Lac Racine and Ruisseau Bagsly between March 15 and July 31
  • For uncatalogued wolf packs, production of a map of potential sites based on habitat selection criteria for denning and rendezvous site periods
  • Visit of known rendezvous sites to conduct characterization studies
  • Installation of camera trap monitoring for areas identified as potential denning or rendezvous sites. This monitoring method, which is less invasive than telemetric collars, is increasingly used to determine the number of individuals in a pack and their use of a given territory.

Periphery of the park

Another objective of Plan de protection des loups du parc national du Mont-Tremblant is to ensure the stability of the population of these top predators in the local ecosystem..

As an apex predator, the wolf requires a vast home range in order to meet its needs. This range varies depending on the animal’s biological cycle and the density of its prey. The 1,510 km² surface area that constitutes Parc national du Mont-Tremblant is not enough to meet all of the needs of the packs that live there. The telemetry data gathered highlights this, and illustrates the degree to which the wolf packs use the neighboring areas. As a result, the efforts undertaken within the park boundaries must therefore also be applicable on the park’s periphery. Following are a few examples of partnerships that could be developed on the park periphery to help protect wolves:

  • Seek the best ways to ensure the long-term presence of the wolves in and around the park
  • Improve knowledge about the animals detected on the park’s periphery
  • Limit the encroachment of coyotes in the park’s periphery
  • Continue acquiring knowledge on the wolf’s genetics, numbers, and range within the territory
  • Encourage the installation of wildlife corridors to ensure links between habitats and to promote wildlife movements
  • Promote forest cover on the park’s periphery, both on public and private lands
  • Clarify the presence, level of hybridization, and genetic resilience capacity of the eastern wolf in and around Parc national du Mont-Tremblant

Communication plan

The multimedia presentation Pourquoi les loups? is offered free of charge to all residents and organizations on the park’s periphery. Marie-Ève Boisvenu | © Sépaq

Plan de protection des loups du parc national du Mont-Tremblant includes a plan to reach out to residents in the municipalities on the park periphery in order to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the wolf—a top predator that’s key to the health of ecosystems. The communication plan stemming from the protection plan aims to enhance the positive perception of the wolf by fostering a better understanding of its ecological role. It also seeks to improve the social acceptability of these large canids and reduce the potential conflicts associated with their presence. To achieve this, all the residents, municipalities, schools, and organizations on the periphery of Parc national du Mont-Tremblant are encouraged to express their interest in one or more of the following communication tools (see Guide des outils de communication disponibles for more details in the section entitled Learn more):

  • Presentation by a park warden/naturalist:
    • Grade 1 to 4 students, day camps: Le loup : mythes et réalités (interactive questionnaire game)
    • Grade 5 and 6, high school, and general public: Pourquoi les loups? (multimedia presentation)
  • Series of six articles of between 550 and 600 words: for local media, websites, and monthly newsletters of various organizations
  • Information and interpretive booth: ideal for public cultural events
  • Awareness campaign displays: road signs, Morris-type advertising columns, and large posters
  • Interpretive panels: aimed at outdoor enthusiasts (particularly hikers)

Main threats outside the park

Habitat loss and fragmentation

Motor accidents are one of the main causes of mortality among wolves. © Shutterstock

Among all of the animals that live in our forests, the wolf is probably the one that defends the largest territory to meet its needs (feeding and breeding). Urban sprawl, logging, and the road network all contribute to the loss and fragmentation of a habitat that is less and less wild, gradually eroding the environment’s capacity to support these top predators. Even where the animals are able to find sufficient prey, studies conducted in the United States and Québec have shown that lower forest cover and the density of roads passable year round drastically reduce the wolves’ use of the territory. This threat is especially problematic for the genetic cohesion of the wolf and the expansion of the species (dispersion of individuals).

Human-caused mortality

Sadly, wolves are still often the victims of prejudice and poaching. © Shutterstock

Road accidents, poaching, hunting, and trapping are the leading causes of wolf mortality in our region. The recent study on wolves conducted in the park clearly shows this: Of the 21 canids that were captured, five have been killed by traps, one by hunters, and another in a road accident, all outside the park boundaries.

In the forests in the south of Québec where the wolf is present, the average number of animals per wolf pack is between 5 and 8 in areas where wildlife harvesting is prohibited, whereas that number drops to an average of 4 per pack in areas where hunting and trapping is permitted. In addition, other studies have proven that wolf packs that experience heavy harvesting pressure have lower rates of reproduction and tend to be made up of few adults and several young. This pressure further increases the risk of cross-breeding between wolves and coyotes.

Hybridization with coyotes

The results of the analysis of 38 DNA samples from canids in and around the park clearly show the hybridization between wolves and coyotes. (Legend: Breakdown of canids into the main genetic groups, Wolf-coyote hybrids, Wolves, Coyotes) © Sépaq

In natural environments undisturbed by humans, wolves help control the number of coyotes, which are mesopredators that attack smaller prey. However, in the Parc national du Mont-Tremblant area, it’s often another story. Coyotes have only been present in Québec for the past century. Aided by the gradual fragmentation of habitats, this species requires a much smaller home range than the wolf. For the eastern wolf and the boreal wolf, the coyote’s expansion northward, coupled with the threats associated with human activities, have made it harder for the wolves to find mates. The high level of human-caused wolf mortality therefore appears to be having a significant impact on the social structure of the wolf packs, leading the wolves to be less selective about their choice of breeding partner. For the wolves in and around the park, hybridization with the coyotes, and the subsequent genetic weakening of the wolves, can constitute a major threat. 

Conservation measures

A realistic vision of the big bad wolf

Originally based on a folktale common throughout Europe, the well-known story of Little Red Riding Hood, which first appeared in a written version in 1697 in the collection Les contes de ma mère l’Oye (Tales of Mother Goose) by Charles Perreault, is just one example among many that have contributed to the image of the big bad wolf.. © Shutterstock

It is time to give the wolf back its original noble status, i.e., to change people’s image and mentality about top predators in general, and about the wolf in particular. Given its nasty reputation and the myths that have revolved around the animal for so long, many people still have an exaggerated fear of the wolf. And yet, scientists agree that the wolf is a timid animal that presents very little danger to humans. The rare incidents recorded in North America over the past century were all related to animals that were either ill and infected with rabies, in extremely poor condition, or that had become used to being around humans. This latter phenomenon, known as familiarization, arises when an animal that is frequently approached or fed loses its biological fear of humans. Its habits and reactions can then become unpredictable, leading it to grow more fearless. This is why it is crucial to avoid behaviors such as feeding animals or poor waste management, which can result in familiarization. For example, feeding white-tailed deer can result in an increase in the deer population in human environments, which subsequently increases the risk of altering the behavior of its main predator, the wolf. Regardless of the species, wildlife familiarization always has disastrous repercussions, both for the animals and for humans.

In actual fact, the negative human influences on this canid are considerably greater than any threat this top predator may pose to us. The unfounded fear of wolves among certain people is likely due to a lack of understanding about the animals. Despite being at the top of the food chain, wolves will systematically avoid the presence of humans, reacting to them in the same way a prey reacts when faced with the threat of a predator. A number of studies have shown that wolves will run away if they are approached. And it is worth mentioning that its remarkable sense of smell (it can detect prey from more than two kilometers away!) means the wolf can detect our presence from afar.

Linking conservation hubs

Modelized map illustrating the regional vision of Éco-corridors laurentiens and depicting conservation hubs (not necessarily protected areas) as well as potential corridors connecting them. (Legend: Vision of ecological corridors in the Laurentians, Corridors, Conservation hubs). © Éco-corridors laurentiens

Wolves are dependent on vast expanses of wilderness for their survival. In order to ensure their dispersion and that of their genes, we must improve the links between protected areas to ensure the long-term survival of the species, especially in the current context of its habitat fragmentation in the south of Québec. There are several organizations working to achieve this, including Réseau de milieux naturels protégés, whose mission is to protect the environment, in the interest of the public, by supporting and encouraging the voluntary conservation of natural environments by organizations, municipalities, landowners, and residents. Like Fiducie de conservation des écosystèmes de Lanaudière (ecosystem conservation trust), these organizations provide landowners with assistance to preserve the forest cover of privately owned land. There are different forms these kinds of conservation efforts can take, such as the full transfer of title to a conservation organization, a nature reserve in a private setting, an easement granted in perpetuity, a trust management, and others.

In addition, Éco-corridors laurentiens, in partnership with Nature Conservancy of Canada, is currently working on a major ecological corridor project. While there are several types of corridors, their common features are stretches of land where mostly unmaintained natural vegetation grows. These corridors are essential for linking wildlife habitats, allowing animals access to new environments and new resources, while avoiding genetic isolation and allowing them time to adapt to climate change (northward migration).

Wildlife crossings

It has been proven that wildlife crossings, coupled with exclusion fencing, are the most effective measure for reducing vehicle collisions with large mammals. © Shutterstock

Roads and highways can represent a significant barrier as well as a high risk for many species, particularly those with large home ranges, like the wolf. It is important to secure our roads more effectively by installing wildlife crossings in strategic places, allowing animals of all sizes to travel over or under main roads without risking their safety—and that of motorists.

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