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Michigan’s Isle Royale only has two wolves left


Michigan Wolf
Photo credit: Dreamstime

Isle Royale is infamous for its rugged wilderness – a destination for adventurists, outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers who want an isolated escape. Located 55 miles away from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in Lake Superior, the island is home to a flourishing population of moose and a dwindling pack of wolves. In fact, according to the Detroit Free Press, that pack is “an inbred, genetic tangle” as they are both half-siblings and father and daughter.

They are also the last two wolves left on Isle Royale.

John Vucetich, a Michigan Technological University wolf researcher, spotted the two during the university’s annual winter study on wolf and moose populations. He estimates the father to be nine years old; the daughter/half-sister, seven.

“They are not in their prime anymore — they're old wolves now,” says Vucetich, adding that this has been a good thing for moose populations on the island. Because of low predation, moose numbers are on the rise and will likely continue to rise if their easy-going Isle Royale existence continues. This year, researchers counted 1,475 moose, which is down from last year’s count of 1,600, but still quite high.

“The bigger trend, for seven years now, is the moose population growing at 16% per year,” Vucetich told the Detroit Free Press. “The moose population can double in four or five years at that rate. They have done so over the past four or five years, and will do so again if current trends continue.”

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However, moose eat a lot. If an adult moose eats up to 60 lbs of plants per day, imagine what could happen to Isle Royale’s ecology—and the moose population in general – if this goes unchecked.

“I think we’re on a knife’s edge,” says Vucetich. “If wolves don’t get it back together soon, if wolf predation isn’t restored promptly, a severe winter could just make (a large-scale moose die-off) happen. But even absent a severe winter, the bottom could just drop out of the food supply at some point.”

Fortunately, a plan is already in the works to restore wolves to the island for this purpose. The National Park Service (NPS) announced that it will move forward with its plan to reinstate 20 to 30 wolves on Isle Royale over the next three years, according to the Detroit Free Press. The announcement occurred in March and NPS hopes to start relocation efforts as early as this fall.

“Wolves are a key component of the Isle Royale heritage and part of what makes this national park one of Michigan’s unique treasures,” said U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. “By reintroducing wolves onto the island, the National Park Service is also taking steps to restore and preserve the entire Isle Royale ecosystem.”


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Mark A. - posted 1 year ago on 05-20-2018 05:19:29 pm
Lake Villa IL

Read closer Tom. My point is nobody is going wolf watching. Hunters would put money into a system which is always broke. I just believe it could be managed different.

Tom F. - posted 1 year ago on 05-20-2018 09:19:02 am

Pay attention Mark, nobody is talking about cities. This is a national park. Wolves can quell the moose population explosion and temper the habitat. As Steve indicated, a moose hunt makes the most sense. And Stephen, this is a conservative idea that makes more sense than a liberal idea to just do nothing

Mark A. - posted 1 year ago on 05-19-2018 08:53:48 pm
Lake Villa IL

Could have said it better Stephen. I grew up in Michigan and the wolves have destroyed the whitetail deer hunting. Never saw people come from the cities to spend money hoping to see a wolf. I have however seen many hunters back when there were deer fill store, gas stations, and diners. Shame these people who's check is signed by the tax payer push there agenda not the people in these community.

stephen B. - posted 1 year ago on 05-18-2018 02:14:59 pm

Hey lets spend a ton of money putting wolfs on an island where obviously they aren't meant to live. Instead of giving hunters the opportunity while generating income for the state.... liberal logic

Steve H. - posted 1 year ago on 05-18-2018 11:11:07 am

Um, how about a revenue generating all funds go to Isla Royale National Park limited hunt to control the moose? Wait, too simple an idea. Never mind.