Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Hiker finds first big pawprint from new wolves released on Michigan's Isle Royale

Oct 26, 2018 05:43AM ● By Editor

Possibly first visitor report of an introduced wolf was a track heading NE along the Minong Trail between Todd Harbor and Little Todd Harbor, about a week after the first wolf was released on 26 September at Windigo. The lucky hiker was Eric Comp, who reported it was the highlight of his summer on the island working as a cook at Rock Harbor Lodge.  Photo:  Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale Facebook page


By Tanda Gmiter | MLive - October 25, 2018

ISLE ROYALE, MI - Now that the fall phase of the National Park Service's first wolf relocation effort on Isle Royale has ended, some cool stories are starting to emerge about the four new wolves roaming the remote island in northern Lake Superior.

The three new females and one male wolf were trapped in Minnesota and brought over as part of a plan to bolster the island's dwindling predator population with up to 30 new wolves in the next few years. 

Isle Royale used to have multiple wolf packs that helped keep its moose population in check. But in recent years, the island's wolf numbers have fallen to just two - a very inter-related pair that cannot have viable offspring.

The National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tribal officials and others worked to plan this fall's first wolf relocations. The trapping and transporting began in late September and ended in mid-October, when poor weather conditions halted the efforts. One captured wolf died before it could be taken to the island and released.

"Animal welfare is the primary concern," said Isle Royale National Park  Superintendent Phyllis Green. "The continued cold weather, which  created safety issues for trapping, and high winds and waves in the  marine forecast which created additional issues for transportation, led to the decision to end this phase of the project a little early."

"The park and its partners in this project are already looking at the next phases of the translocation process, which may include relocating wolves from Canada this winter."

 Earlier this month, as the newest wolves were settling in, a hiker snapped a picture of a large wolf pawprint that was described as "possibly the first visitor report" of a sign of the new predators.

Eric Comp, who worked as a cook this season at the island's Rock Harbor Lodge, described the find as the highlight of his summer, according to researchers from Michigan Tech University who are part of a decades-long study on the predator-prey balance there.

Ontario and Michigan Partner in International Effort to Relocate Wolves to Isle Royale

THUNDER BAY – The National Park Service will be relocating wolves from Ontario to Isle Royale this winter.  Isle Royale and their partners successfully relocated 4 wolves from Minnesota to the park this fall in the first phase of an effort to restore predator-prey dynamics to the island ecosystem.  The support and assistance of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the next phase of the Isle Royale wolf translocation project possible.

“Ontario and Michigan have a long history of friendship, an abundance of natural beauty and a proud tradition of working together to conserve our natural ecosystems,” said Ford. “We all have an important role to play in protecting the environment and we’re happy to do our part to help Michigan’s wildlife thrive.”

Wolves play a critical role in managing the moose population in Isle Royale National Park, preventing overgrazing of vegetation and sustaining the ecosystem dynamics. With very few wolves remaining at Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park and natural population recovery unlikely, Ontario has agreed to move several Ontario wolves during the winter months.

“Michigan is proud to be part of this international effort to return a viable wolf population to Isle Royale, and we appreciate the partnership provided by Premier Ford in the effort,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “This project will help the National Park Service restore ecological balance to the island park and preserve this wild and special place for generations to come.”

In addition, Isle Royale Park Superintendent Phyllis Green stated, “The National Park Service appreciates the support of Premier Ford and Governor Snyder in helping restore predator-prey dynamics to Isle Royale National Park’s ecosystem. In addition to individual wolves from Minnesota and Michigan, bringing Ontario wolves to the park provides the best mix of genetic sources for the reintroduced wolf population. This collaborative effort will help ensure the start of a robust population of wolves on Isle Royale.”

“We greatly appreciate the efforts of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to facilitate this project and thank Premier Ford and Minister Jeff Yurek for their decision to provide Ontario wolves,” said Isle Royale Superintendent, Phyllis Green.   “We look forward to working with the professionals from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.”

Several wolves will be captured during the winter months and moved from Ontario to the isolated island park.   The wolves from Ontario will play a critical role in restoring a robust wolf population at Isle Royale that functions as an apex predator.

The winter effort is part of a three- to five-year plan to relocate 20 to 30 wolves to Isle Royale.

Researchers recommended this number of wolves to establish adequate genetic variability to help accomplish the overall goal of restoring predation as a key part of the ecosystem on the island.  The NPS along with its partners plans to monitor ecological conditions and other factors, such as predation rates, genetics, moose-wolf ratios, and terrestrial and aquatic vegetation impacts to evaluate project success.  Along with the state of Michigan and the province of Ontario, the NPS is collaborating with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources,  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, U.S. Geological Survey, University of Minnesota, and personnel from multiple NPS units.

Below are some pictures and descriptions of the wolf relocation effort, as provided by the National Parks Service.

The new wolves already are busy checking out their new home, and have found the moose carcasses that were left out for them to feed on. 

 "All of the wolves are moving about and exploring the island, as evidenced by GPS collar data. We will continue monitoring their movements to determine if they form any new  packs," said the island's National Park Chief of Natural Resources and Translocation  Project Manager, Mark Romanski.

Photo courtesy of NPS / Jacob W. Frank

In this photo,  Kevin Fuller with USDA Wildlife Services works with Roger (Poe) Deschampe Jr. and Tony Swader of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to process the first female wolf translocated to Isle Royale. 

Photo courtesy of NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Staff from Grand Portage and USDA Wildlife Services gather around a newly-crated wolf. 

Photo courtesy of USFWS / Courtney Kelley
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here