Thunder Bay

Researchers get green light for Isle Royale wolf study after U.S. government shutdown

The researchers behind a long-running predator-prey study on Michigan's Isle Royale are breathing a sigh of relief.

Steps have been taken to 'shutdown proof' the study for the rest of the winter

Researchers are especially eager to get to Isle Royale this winter, because it is the first opportunity for them to observe several new wolves that were recently transferred to the island. (U.S. National Park Service)

The researchers behind a long-running predator-prey study on Michigan's Isle Royale are breathing a sigh of relief. 

Earlier this winter, the research team feared that the U.S. government shutdown would lead to the first interruption of the study on Isle Royale National Park in six decades. 

However, the government has reopened in time for them to complete the winter research, which includes counts of the wolf and moose populations.

"We'll have a short season but if we can get out there this week, early next week we'll still be able to function I think and get things done," said Rolf Peterson, a research professor at Michigan Technological University who's been working on the study for decades.

Peterson said they'd also taken steps to make the study "shutdown proof," for the next little while.

Even if federal services are interrupted again, they've struck an agreement with the park that will allow them to keep working if park expenses are covered, and a foundation has agreed to help them do that.  

Now, the weather is the only thing that can hold them up, "but we're used to that," he said.  

The Isle Royale project is famed for being the longest predator-prey study of its kind. Peterson said it would have been a serious blow if they hadn't been able to maintain their yearly records. 

"For a long-term study like this, it's everything. You have to have continuity from year-to-year, and we've had that for 60 years, and I think we can keep it going for 61 now."  

Isle Royale is located on Lake Superior, not far from Thunder Bay, Ont.