The effort to save the wolf species on a Lake Superior island chain is underway. Four Canadian wolves arrived in Michigan, joining the small pack that lives in the Isle Royale National Park. Experts hope this pack will revive the species and contain the overwhelming moose population in the area.
This fall, the first relocated wolves arrived in the park. (For a re-cap of the National Park Service’s wolf revival plan, see Wolf Management at Isle Royale.) Now, the newest four members of the pack grow its number to eight—four males and four females. Over time, the goal is to relocate 20 to 30 wolves to Isle Royale.
The National Park Service in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are methodical with their capture and relocation of the wolves. Helicopter crews in Ontario used net guns to catch the four latest additions to the pack. Veterinarians examined the wolves before they were flown to Isle Royale where they were re-checked, fitted with radio transmitters, and released into the wild.
Did the wolves transition well? They surprised Mark Romanski, a division chief at the park. He says, “I am …blown away by the resilience of these wolves, who within hours after undergoing capture and handling and arriving on Isle Royale, immediately got on the trail of their new pack mates.”
Without a doubt, the wolves are ready for their two jobs: preying and populating. The decline of the wolf population allowed an increase in the moose population. Too many moose might over-graze the park. That would result in starvation for the entire herd.
Experts believe inbreeding contributed to the demise of the park’s wolf families. Intent on populating the wolf pack with genetic diversity, the new wolves will come from packs in Minnesota, Canada, and Michigan.
Will the new wolves stay put with their new pack? Only time will tell. Last year, one wolf slipped across an ice bridge back to the mainland. Based on science, it’s not likely that others will do the same. But it’s a gamble—one that the National Park Service is willing to take in order to return a healthy balance between predators and prey in the park.
(This February 28, 2019 photo shows one of four Canadian wolves being relocated to Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. AP Photo)