More wolves to be moved to Isle Royale this winter

Photo by A. McLaren/Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry One of the wolves brought to Isle Royale National Park from Canada last month is seen mid-capture. Thanks to private funds, between four and six wolves could be brought to Isle Royale this weekend.

ISLE ROYALE — More wolves could be headed to Isle Royale National Park this weekend.

With a window of good weather and four to six wolves at risk of starvation, two groups have put $75,000 so far towards moving the wolves from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park, located in Ontario water in northern Lake Superior.

The National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation and International Wolf Center agreed to the project as a way to increase the Isle Royale wolf population’s ability to take down moose. It also rescues the Michipicoten wolves, which were running out of food after exterminating the island’s caribou population. Four to six wolves are left on Michipicoten, the Foundation said in a statement.

“We’re fortunate we have another chance,” said Liz Valencia, chief of interpretation and cultural resources at Isle Royale. “The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is committed to making this happen and the donors are committed to it. Getting more wolves is within our plans. The more wolves we can put out there, the great chance packs can form and give us more success for the program.”

The park is looking to bring 20-30 wolves to Isle Royale over a three- to five-year period to augment the island’s population. Down to two before last year, it had proved inadequate at culling moose, which was at risk of overbrowsing island plants.

The Isle Royale situation is a perfect example of the importance of wolves to wildlands, which ties in with what the International Wolf Center tries to teach, Executive Director Rob Schultz said in an email to the Gazette.

“Without wolves on Isle Royale, the island’s vegetation could easily be destroyed,” he said.

It also instructs about the role humans play in the wolf population, and the impacts of climate change, he said.

Two male wolves from Michipicoten were already moved to the island in February, along with a female and male captured on the mainland near Wawa, Ontario. That brings the population of wolves on Isle Royale to four males and four females.

The Michipicoten captures included the alpha male. Crews had tried to bring the alpha female as well, but she escaped onto the ice, said Carol Brady, board member of the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation.

“It’d be great to have a pair that is already an established mated pair,” she said. “And they’re pretty confident they can get that pair this time.”

Valencia said the park would provide more updates on the recent additions to the wolf population when it receives more tracking data.

“As far as we know they’re all moving around, doing fine,” she said.

The funds already being put forward will cover three days of operation, Brady said. The Foundation raised $30,000. After that, it contacted the International Wolf Center, said Foundation chair Sona Mehring. The International Wolf Center’s board committed $20,000, and the center raised another $25,000.

“A lot of factors have been stacked up against these wolves on Michipicoten, ranging from a government shutdown to terrible winter weather,” Mehring said in a statement emailed to the Gazette. “We knew it was up to us and the International Wolf Center to ensure these wolves survived.”

To raise the $25,000 for a fourth day, the organizations have started a GoFundMe page at bit.ly/isleroyalewolves.