Wolves could stem explosion of Isle Royale moose herd, says Michigan professor

A new federal report out of Michigan says managers are leaning towards relocating a large number wolves to Isle Royale.

Preferred plan would introduce up to 30 wolves to Isle Royale, says professor, ‘then back off and let it roll’

Moose hunters can start applying for their license starting Monday. (Rolf Peterson)

A new federal report out of Michigan says managers are leaning towards relocating a large number wolves to Isle Royale.

The draft report, released last week, includes four options for stopping the rapid decline of wolves on the remote Lake Superior island.

Rolf Peterson, a research professor with Michigan Technological University, has studied the predator-prey relationship on Isle Royale for decades. 

Peterson said the moose numbers are exploding on the island, while there may be as few as two wolves left. 

He said the reports preferred option would make the largest impact on the eco-system in the shortest period of time.
Rolf Peterson, a Michigan-based researcher, thinks introducing wolves to Isle Royale will stem the explosion — and decline — of its moose population. (Rolf Peterson)

Bring wolves to the island, then 'back off and let it roll'

"Their preferred alternative is to introduce a bunch of wolves, quite a few wolves, as quickly as possible," Peterson said, "and then back off and let it roll."

The report - that leans towards relocating up to 30 wolves on the island over three years - is good news, Peterson said, but not a guarantee it will happen.
Rolf Peterson has researched the interaction of moose and wolves on Isle Royale since 1971. (Michigan Tech Blogs - blogs.mtu.edu)

And even if the preferred plan gets the go ahead, it will still be a couple years before any wolves are reintroduced to the island, he said.

Peterson said in the mean time, without predation from wolves, the moose population could double.

He said this could create a situation where the moose don't have enough available food.

"(the moose) will be well up in to the low thousands," said Peterson."Where things get pretty dicey in terms of moose survival and food supply. " 

Peterson said a final decision on what to do will be made after a 90-day public comment period.

"It's a good plan from the standpoint that they seem committed to doing something and getting on with it expeditiously," Peterson said, "but it's still just a plan. What counts is paws on the ground, really."

Isle Royale is a National Park, and no hunting of moose is permitted.