Isle Royale wolf population increases to two

The doubling of the wolf population at Isle Royale, MI may sound like a big leap - but what it really means is the wolf pack now stands at two.

Previous research indicated only one wolf was alive on Isle Royale

Rolf Peterson has researched the interaction of moose and wolves on Isle Royale since 1971. He is a professor at Michigan Technical University. (Michigan Tech Blogs - blogs.mtu.edu)

The doubling of the wolf population at Isle Royale, MI may sound like a big leap - but what it really means is the wolf pack now stands at two.

Researchers from Michigan Technical University in Houghton, MI are at the remote island in Lake Superior, performing the annual moose and wolf count. It was confirmed this week that two wolves are alive on the island, which is 72 km long, and 14 wide at its largest section.

"In the winter, we count the wolves and count the moose and determine the predation rate for the moose population, how many moose the wolves are killing. And that's been going on since 1959," said Rolf Petersen, who is a professor at Michigan Tech University.

"These two haven't reproduced successfully ever. They're father and daughter pair, and they have the same mother, so they're pretty heavily inbred. The female last year would have nothing to do with the male in terms of courtship behaviour."

The research group that has been tracking the wolf and moose population on the island, which is also a U.S. National Park, posted on their Facebook page that wolves were spotted on January 20.
This photo, taken in 2015, shows the last three wolves to live on Isle Royale, MI in Lake Superior. (Rolf Peterson)

"We followed tracks of two wolves for over 30 miles at the east end of the island, where the pair has spent most of their time for many years. The male would be 9 years old and the female 7 years old. There has not been an ice bridge to the mainland since last winter."

Peterson said the moose population on Isle Royale is growing, by as much as 20 per cent last year, and it will eventually collapse.

"These two wolves are getting older and older. But, basically predation disappeared in 2012, so the moose population has been increasing by 20 per cent per year since that time."

Petersen said he has been advocating to bring wolves from the mainland to the isolated park, and it appears the park service will heed his call this year. A final decision to relocate some animals is expected in the coming weeks.

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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