Wolves should be reintroduced back into Isle Royale
Wildlife experts have been saying for years that the collapse of the wolf population on Isle Royale National Park was approaching.
Well, it appears that unfortunate process is one animal short of complete as recent research on the island has found evidence that just a single wolf remains.
“I wasn’t able to confirm two wolves,” Michigan Technological University wolf researcher Rolf Peterson told The Detroit Free Press. “We did confirm one wolf with a trail camera, but we didn’t get any definitive evidence of the presence of both wolves this summer.”
Wolves crossed the ice bridge from the mainland five decades ago. The island’s wolf population reached as high as 50 animals, averaging about half that number before inbreeding led to the population collapse.
One unintended consequence of the reduced number of wolves has been an explosion in the number of moose, whose numbers have topped 1,600. The long-legged animals have overbrowsed fir trees and other vegetation on the island, creating the possibility of mass die-offs due to starvation in future years, the Free Press reported.
The National Park Service, which oversees Isle Royale, is nearly done with an environmental impact statement and management plan relative to the wolf issue on the island. The plan considers four options: Doing nothing and letting nature take its brutal course to three separate scenarios for reintroducing wolves from the mainland to the island in varying numbers over different time periods.
The service’s preferred alternative involves importing 20 to 30 wolves over a period of up to five years.
Peterson favors reintoducing wolves in measured numbers, and so do we.
Wildlife managers have an opportunity, if they move with relative dispatch, to provide balance in a unique environment where balance has been removed.
The plan should be available for public review sometime shortly after the first of the year. It’s recommendations, including a genetic rescue plan, could be implemented in 2018.
Peterson probably said it best when he noted that that a moose-rich island would be “as close to Heaven as a wolf would ever find.”
We think the moose-wolf relationship should have another chance on Isle Royale.