In the summer of 1963, park naturalists in Algonquin Provincial Park came up with the idea for a new interpretive program: an evening of “wolf listening.” On August 15, 656 people in 164 cars showed up much to the shock and delight of park staff! As is often said, the rest is history. Since that very first Public Wolf Howl 50 years ago, approximately 160,000 visitors -an average of about 1,800 per event- have taken part in what is now listed as a Canadian Tourism Commission Signature Experience.
Photo credit: (left) Canadian Tourism Commission
Pending the discovery of a wolf pack at a suitable location along Highway 60 on the preceding Tuesday and Wednesday, Public Wolf Howls are held on Thursdays during August and early September. The Public Wolf Howl program consists of a talk on wolf ecology followed by travel by car to a location where wild wolves may answer the imitations made by park naturalists. While wolves will respond to human imitations of their howls at any time of year, late summer is when packs are most likely to stay put for consecutive days or weeks. At this time of year, pups are too big to stay in the den, but are not yet able to hunt large game like deer for themselves. As a result, pups will stay in an open area called a “rendez-vous site” while the adults are off hunting.
In planning the 50th anniversary celebration, park staff were delighted to see that August 15, 2013 does indeed fall on a Thursday, meaning the 50th anniversary truly will be 50 years to the day of the first howl. On that night, visitors will be treated to a special commemorative presentation about Algonquin’s signature interpretive event. Former park naturalists will also be on hand as part of the celebration. If current staff detect a pack at a suitable location on August 13 and 14, the presentation will be followed by a howl where we hope to add hundreds more to the growing list of park visitors who have had the privilege of hearing wild wolves howl beneath a starry August sky.