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Extinct Dire Wolf (Canus dirus) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat

Extinct Dire Wolf (Canus dirus)

How Do We Know This?

Paleontologists use knowledge of the earth's rocks, global plate tectonic movements, ancient ecosystems, and the chemical process of fossilization to make sense of fossil distribution patterns and ancient habitats.

Prehistoric Distribution

  • 300,000 to 12,000 years ago (Late Pleistocene)
  • North America into northern South America (southern Alberta, Canada to southern Bolivia)
  • Rare in South America
    • Only 10 fossil sites with dire wolves known to date but lack of exploration may be a factor
    • More than 136 fossils sites known.
  • Nearly 4,000 dire wolves found in La Brea asphalt deposits in California
    • Most common of the Pleistocene canids at La Brea (Stock & Harris 1992)


  • Extremely variable; forested mountains to open grasslands and plains
  • Sea level to 2255 m (7400 ft)
  • In Sonora, Mexico, in environments thought to be a tropical marsh with nearby thorn-scrub, deciduous forest, and grassland.
  • Pleistocene climate in southern California during time when one of the La Brea asphalt pits collected dire wolves, compared with today: (Coltrain et al 2004).
    • Cooler
    • Wetter
    • Less seasonal

Page Citations

Anyonge & Baker (2006)
Coltrain et al (2004)
Dundas (1999)
Hodnett et al (2009)
Hunt (1996)
Prevosti & Rincon (2007)
Stock & Harris (1992)

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