Sometimes it’s all about knowing what your search term is. I wanted to do some species range maps for one of my other projects. Since I’m not wise in the ways of cartography, and because Illustrator would be serious overkill for this little project, I wanted some bare maps that had nothing but country, state or provincial borders, so I could draw the species’ range on them in a new layer. I knew they existed — way back when I was in school, we had a photocopied supply of them — but I didn’t know where to go looking. This Ask MetaFilter question led to a few professional sources, but after searching through a few more sites I came up with the correct search term: outline maps. Whereupon I struck paydirt: this was what I was looking for.
The ones I ended up deciding on were on About.com: they’re a little crude, but had no licencing restrictions that I could see and best served my purposes. The nicest ones were those at the Atlas of Canada, though they weren’t quite what I was looking for — I also needed the U.S., Mexico and Central America to a certain level of detail. For other pages, the always-excellent Perry-Casteñeda Library Map Collection (you should always check it first when looking for maps, something I frequently forget) has an enormous page of links to outline map sites.
Now I have to come up with range maps for 30 species, which, because I’m using separate Canada, U.S. and Mexico/Central America maps, probably means something like 50 maps to do. Zoiks.