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National Park Service Hopes To Import Wolves From Canada For Isle Royale

Oct 28, 2018 07:15AM ● By Editor

Canadian wolves could be loping through this landscape in Isle Royale National Park if trapping operations go well this winter.  Photo:  NPS, Jacob W. Frank

From National Parks Traveler - October 28, 2018

With four wolves moved this fall from Minnesota to Isle Royale National Park, the National Park Service now is looking to Canada to obtain more wolves for the park in Lake Superior.

The support and assistance of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the next step of the Isle Royale wolf translocation project possible. 

“We greatly appreciate the efforts of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to facilitate this project and thank Premier Ford and Minister Jeff Yurek for their decision to provide Ontario wolves,” said Isle Royale 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 Park Service said in a release.

“Ontario and Michigan have a long history of friendship and a proud tradition of working together to conserve our natural ecosystems,” said Premier 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.”

Isle Royale wolves have been in decline for more than a decade. In recent years, park managers have discussed island and wolf management with wildlife managers and geneticists from across the United States and Canada, and have received input during public meetings and from Native American tribes of the area. Those discussions examined the question of whether wolves should be physically transported to Isle Royale, in large part due to concerns that a loss of the predators would lead to a boom in the moose population that likely would over-browse island vegetation.

Under a plan adopted earlier this year, up to 30 wolves are to be set free at Isle Royale over the next three years in a bid to bring genetic diversity back to the park's few remaining wolves. 

Chronic inbreeding has impacted the health of Isle Royale's wolf population. There was hope that "ice bridges" that formed between the Lake Superior island and the Canadian mainland during the winter of 2013-14 would enable wolves to arrive from Canada with new genes. But no new wolves reached the island, while one female left and was killed by a gunshot wound in February 2014 near Grand Portage National Monument.

The goal for this fall was to translocate up to six wolves from the Minnesota and Michigan mainland to the park, but only four -- one male and three females were actually moved there before weather shut down trapping operations. Another female died after being sedated.

The NPS 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.

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