Wolf Translocation Project Continues on Isle Royale

Wolf being loaded for flight to Isle Royale on US Fish and Wildlife Service aircraft. Photo courtesy of John Pepin, Michigan DNR
Wolf being loaded for flight to Isle Royale on US Fish and Wildlife Service aircraft. Photo courtesy of John Pepin, Michigan DNR

HOUGHTON, MICH – Isle Royale National Park resumed it’s wolf translocation project this week.  Park staff and partners successfully moved a wolf from Michigan’s mainland to Isle Royale on Friday, September 6.  The 70 lb. male wolf, between 2 and 3 years old, was captured in the Upper Peninsula and transported by amphibious aircraft to the island and released. This marks the beginning of the second year of a three- to five-year effort to establish a population of 20-30 wolves in the isolated island park.

This fall’s efforts continue implementation of the June 2018 environmental impact statement decision to restore predation to the ecosystem of Isle Royale National Park.  The new Michigan wolf joins 14 other wolves on Isle Royale; 12 that were translocated last fall and winter and two resident wolves. The island population now includes 8 males and 7 females.  One of the goals of the project is to source new wolves from diverse geographic areas to ensure genetic diversity.  Since last September, wolves from Minnesota, from mainland Ontario and Michipicoten Island Provincial Park in Canada, and now Michigan have been brought to Isle Royale.

The goal for this fall’s operation is to translocate four to six wolves from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the park.  The contributions of partners have been critical to the success of the project.  This fall, partners in the translocation effort include the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services program.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service is providing a Kodiak aircraft to move the wolves from the mainland to the park.

“We have relied on partners to access wolves for these translocation events,” Isle Royale Park Superintendent Phyllis Green said. “The Michigan DNR knowledge of wolf pack activity in the Upper Peninsula is extensive and we are relying on their expertise and support from trapping to veterinary services for this fall’s operations. We are hoping that the weather and conditions hold such that we are able to achieve the goal of bringing 4 – 6 wolves from the Michigan mainland to Isle Royale.”

The NPS and researchers from Michigan Technological University and State University of New York are tracking the movements of the wolves around the island.  The primary goals of the project are to ensure that wolves form packs, reproduce, and act as predators on the park’s burgeoning moose population.  Initial indications show that after just a few short months, the new wolves are starting to travel and hunt together.  A female wolf from Minnesota and two males from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park have been doing just that since April.  The NPS, in collaboration with several state, federal, tribal, and university partners are studying the wolves and researching broad ecosystem change as the island adjusts to the return of predation, a key ecosystem community dynamic and a goal of the project.

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