The Ethiopian wolf is confined to high mountains on either side of Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500m (Gottelli & Sillero-Zubiri, 1992). They are restricted to land above the agriculture frontier, which in places encroaches up to 4,000m (Yalden et al., 1980; Marino, 2003).
There are six extant populations: Simien Mountains, North Wollo and South Wollo highlands, Guassa-Menz, Arsi Mountains and Bale Mountains; two recent extinct (Gosh Meda and Mt Guna) and one several decades ago (Mt Choke). These populations are by definition isolated from each others, as they are separated by distances larger than the potential dispersal of individual wolves (a conservative 20km from previous observations).
The earliest uncovered reference to the species dates to the 13th century or earlier, referring to "Ethiopicis lupis" as a docile carnivore that never attacks men (Barber, 1993).
The Ethiopian wolf had been reported in the Simien Mountains since it was first described in 1835 (Nievergelt et al., 1998), and reports from the Gojjam plateau were dated in the early century (Powell-Cotton, 1902; Maydon, 1932).
South of the Rift Valley, wolves have been recorded in the Arsi Mountains since the turn of the century, and in the Bale Mountains since 1959 (Hillman, 1986).
Reports of small populations in North Sidamo (Haltenorth & Diller 1980) may be an error. There is no evidence that the Ethiopian wolf ever occurred in Eritrea (Coetzee, 1977).