Skip to main content

Cold facts: The ice bridge and the wolves of Lake Superior

Jan 03, 2018 06:08AM ● Published by Editor

This February 2006 file photo released by Michigan Technological University, shows gray wolves on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan. JOHN VUCETICH / AP

Winter is upon us and the cold is here to last, with double-digit negative temperatures forecast for the next week. Is there a bright side to any of this? Not really. But we offer the tiniest of silver linings! To accompany this cold snap, we’re running a short-term daily feature: Cold Facts. 

Lake Superior is showing signs of forming an “ice bridge” from the mainland across to Isle Royale, home of one of the world’s oddest group of wolves.

Wolves crossed the frozen stretch decades ago, a trip of more than 30 kilometres. Moose had crossed even earlier. Wolves eat moose, and the Isle Royale packs balanced the moose population on the island for a long time. But without new arrivals, the wolf pack appears to have dwindled to a single very inbred animal. The moose population is skyrocketing (now 1,600) and without predators it will go through boom and bust cycles as the moose periodically become so numerous that they eat up most of their food and cause famine.

An ice bridge doesn’t form often, but this winter may be cold enough. The question now is: What if more wolves cross on the ice this year, bringing new, healthy genes?

Isle Royale is close to the Canadian side of Superior, but it is in Michigan.

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here

Weather Alerts Provided by Willy Weather