Most large carnivore populations currently occur in heterogeneous landscapes, with source populations embedded in a matrix of human-dominated habitats. Understanding changes in distribution of endangered carnivores is critical for prioritizing and implementing conservation strategies. We examined distribution and dynamics of a dhole Cuon alpinus metapopulation, first in 2007 and subsequently in 2015, based on indirect sign surveys across 37, 000sq. km of India's Western Ghats. Predicted dhole occupancy declined from 0.62 (95% CI: 0.58-0.66) in 2007 to 0.54 (95% CI: 0.50-0.58) in 2015. Occupancy was associated with abundance of primary prey species and anthropogenic disturbance. Local extinction appeared to be influenced by forest cover loss, and offset by protected reserves; colonization was influenced by occupancy in neighbouring sites. Perturbation analysis indicated that occupancy was more sensitive to local extinction within reserves and to colonization in sites abutting reserves. The Western Ghats could serve as a stronghold for the endangered dhole, provided future colonizations are facilitated through habitat consolidation beyond reserve boundaries, and local extinctions are prevented by increasing protection efforts within select reserves. We advocate for wildlife managers to adopt a landscape-based approach and periodic monitoring to ensure persistence of the dhole metapopulation in Western Ghats, and in other critical conservation regions across the species' geographic range.