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Boreal Community Media

Wolves from Grand Portage to be relocated to Isle Royale

Sep 21, 2018 02:14PM ● By Editor

Photo:  MN DNR

By Joe Friedrichs of WTIP Radio News - Friday, September 21, 2018

An estimated six to eight wolves will be brought from the Upper Midwest and possibly Ontario to Isle Royale by the end of October, according to officials from the National Park Service involved in an ambitious project to reestablish wolves on the large island on Lake Superior.

Starting as soon as Sept. 24, two to four wolves will be trapped using foothold snares to capture wolves from the Grand Portage Reservation in Cook County.  Additional trapping and relocation of up to two wolves will begin this fall in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Those wolves will also be relocated to Isle Royale.

Any wolf that is brought the island will be equipped with a radio collar for GPS tracking. Wolves will also undergo an extensive health evaluation before being transported to the island.  

There are currently about five wolf packs on the Grand Portage Reservation, according to Dr. Seth Moore, the director of wildlife and biology for the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Moore said there are about 25 individual wolves amongst those five packs. A benefit to contributing wolves to the project is that it could lead to lower mortality rates for moose on Grand Portage lands, Moore said during a press conference on Friday, Sept. 21. Moore said approximately 80 percent of all moose calves die in Grand Portage during the first year of life, with many succumbing to predation from wolves and bears.  

The park service has a short-term goal of establishing 20 to 30 wolves on Isle Royale within the next three years. The idea is that the wolf population would naturally “ebb and flow” moving forward following those initial three years, according to park officials.

Mark Romanski is the Isle Royale National Park chief of natural resources. He said the plan is to introduce an equal number of male and female wolves, which will be captured on the mainland and transported by amphibious airplanes to the island. Planes used in the operation could come from Maine, Nevada or Florida, according to Phyllis Green, the superintendent at Isle Royale National Park.

The federal government officially announced in June that Isle Royale's decimated wolf population will get an infusion of new wolves in an attempt to control the abundance of moose currently on the island.

Romanski said park officials and others involved with the process hope the wolves will form packs that will help keep the island's abundant moose in check, preventing them from overeating vegetation and harming the ecosystem.

Currently, there are just two known wolves residing on Isle Royale, and about 1,500 moose. The idea for a balanced ecosystem would have more wolves and fewer moose.

Meanwhile, the remaining two wolves on the island will not be euthanized or removed from the island before the supplemental animals are brought to Isle Royal, according to Romanski. Despite the fact the two remaining wolves suffer genetic abnormalities from inbreeding, the hope is that those deficiencies do not impact the formation of new packs on the island. 

The planning process, which included more than 6,500 comments or opinions from the public, started about five years ago almost to the day from Friday’s press conference. Friday's meeting event included regional and national media, as well as national park staff and wildlife officials ranging from Colorado to Minnesota. 

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