It turns out we can’t just let the wilderness run wild. The National Park Service is changing its hands-off approach at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. Left alone, the wolves of Isle Royale are dying out. So federal officials have a plan to relocate 20-30 of the elusive predators. They will capture wolves from the mainland and move them to the lake’s archipelago over several years. The first new inhabitants will arrive in the park this fall.
The wolves are an important part of the park’s ecosystem. If they die out, the moose population will become too abundant. Too many moose will overeat the park’s trees and shrubs—allowing soil to erode and decimating their own food supply.
Predators like wolves often get a bad rap—especially in populated areas where humans raise livestock. But in the wild, they are essential. Cam Sholly is the National Park Service’s Midwest regional director. Sholly says it is critical to “obtain a proper predator-prey dynamic within the Isle Royale National Park ecosystem.” Doing so takes human management.
That’s a direct parallel with the mandate God gave to humankind at creation. He told His people to “have dominion over…every living thing.” (Genesis 1:28) God created everything in perfect balance. But He shares the work of maintaining that balance and causing it to flourish with His image-bearers. He delights to put us to good work in His creation.
Part of that work involves study. Another part, action. Scientists aren’t sure how the wolves first made their way to the island park. They think they may have crossed an ice bridge from Canada or Minnesota in the 1940s. The wolf population in the park grew until the early 1980s. About 50 wolves were noted there then. But the numbers fell again—probably due to genetic weaknesses from inbreeding.
Presently only two remain: one male and one female. The two are closely related and unlikely to breed—which is not a bad thing. New unrelated wolves should help to strengthen the population as they arrive and reproduce there.
The park service plans to seek suitable wolves from around the Great Lakes region, including Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario. They will try to find roughly equal numbers of males and females. About six to 10 wolves will be relocated year one, and a few dozen more over the next four years.
“We hope to capture from as many wide-ranging geographical areas as possible to maximize genetic variability,” says Isle Royale natural resources chief Mark Romanski.