Sat. Feb 24th, 2024
One light coloured wolf, standing on a rock shore and looking towards the camera

Today’s post comes to us from MacKenzie Schmidt, Discovery Program Coordinator for our Algonquin Zone.

For centuries, wolves have captured our imagination and wonder. Tolstoy wrote about them, biologists have studied them seriously, and campers staying in Ontario parks have had the opportunity to howl at them during public wolf howls since the 1960s.

In fact, the first public wolf howl in Algonquin Provincial Park (1963) represents some of our earliest educational programs that are fundamental to the current mission of Ontario Parks.

The story behind the wolf howls at Bonnechere

Although famous in Algonquin Provincial Park along Highway 60, many people may not realize the prevalence of wolves on the east side of Algonquin, which extends into Bonnechere Provincial Park. Wolves are frequently heard there during the summer months.

Over the past few decades, renowned biologist and naturalist Michael Runtz has spent countless hours studying and photographing the area’s wolves.

When asked about his experience with wolves, Michael had this to say:

Profile of howling manPhoto: Michael Runtz

“It seems hard to believe that it was 25 years ago when the first howl of the Bonnechere wolf was made. During all those years, thousands of visitors to Bonnechere Provincial Park enjoyed the soulful music of the wild eastern (Algonquian) wolves.

See also  How to plan a trip to Frontenac

“The howls were started as an attempt to not only introduce Bonnechere campers to the wolves next door in Algonquin Park, but also to appease some of the negative feelings local residents have toward wolves.

“I was asked to do the first howl because I had been working as an interpretive naturalist in Algonquin on and off since the early 1970s, and I had a lot of experience with wolves, especially when it came to performing wolf howls in public. “I also photographed these elusive animals and was able to talk about them from my personal experience.”

The most memorable howl.

“There have been many memorable moments with the Bonnechere howls,” Michael continues. “One was an adult wolf who not only repeatedly responded to my howls, but also came closer and closer.

A single wolf, quite close, howling against a backdrop of green foliage. Photo: Michael Runtz

“We could hear him walking through the woods just a few meters away from us, and when he started barking, even I almost jumped out of my shoes! On the way out, some lucky participants saw the beautiful wolf as he crossed the road between two cars.

“May this year’s howl continue the tradition!”

Unforgettable close encounters

Howling with wolves is truly a moment you won’t forget. I make this statement from personal experience! I remember very clearly the first time I had the opportunity to participate in a wolf howl; It was my first year as a student naturalist at Bonnechere Provincial Park.

We had been out for over an hour and a half, the rain started to fall and we still hadn’t heard the wolves. We made our last stop, Michael called several times and then had all the participants join together for a group howl, but still no response.

See also  Step back in time at the Silver Queen Mine open house

Three wolves in a meadowPhoto: Michael Runtz

Almost all of us returned to our vehicles to go home when someone in the crowd asked if we could try one more time as a group. We howled together and then waited in silence.

What followed was the loudest herd howl I have ever heard! We were all ecstatic.

Michael returned the howl again as a lone caller, and the alpha came closer than the pack, barking in our direction. To date, this has been the most memorable and incredible wildlife interaction I have ever had. It was also very gratifying to see how many people were moved by this close encounter with such an amazing species.

A light colored wolf standing on a rocky shore and looking towards the camera

25th anniversary of the howl

For the past quarter century, a wolf howl has been presented at Bonnechere Provincial Park in partnership with Michael Runtz and the Friends of Bonnechere Parks. This event has given the public the opportunity to hear the wolves and interact with them without fear.

This year, join us on August 25, 2018 to experience the wonder of the wolf howl for yourself!