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Wolves nearly gone from Michigan's Isle Royale National Park

Researchers taking part in a 57-year long study on Isle Royale, Michigan have found wolf numbers at an unprecedented low. There are now only 3 wolves left. At the same time, the moose herd on the Lake Superior island is now over 1200 animals, and growing at 22 per cent a year.

Only three wolves remain on the island, while moose numbers explode

Just these three wolves are thought to remain on Isle Royale, on the Michigan side of Lake Superior (Rolf Peterson)

There is good news and bad news concerning Lake Superior's Isle Royale.

The good news is the moose population on the Michigan island is now estimated at 1250 animals, and it's growing by 22 per cent a year.

The bad news is the moose's only predator on Isle Royale, the wolf, is just about gone.

Michigan Tech university researcher Rolf Peterson says only three wolves remain on Isle Royale, and those animals are in-bred.

"We've got two solid wolves there, probably a male and a female," said Peterson. "And they have reproduced the last couple of years. It's just that they can't produce viable offspring very well."

Peterson said the wolf numbers on Isle Royale are down from a population of 24 in 2009, and he says the remaining animals are not likely to rebuild the population.

He said that 's why he and a colleague have been pushing for a small wolf introduction on the island.   

" John Vucetich and I, the co-principal investigators, have been encouraging the National Parks Service to seriously consider this for the last four years, "said Peterson." And that would be to put a couple mainland wolves on the island and have them breed with the residents."

Peterson said now, because the resident wolves are so low in number, a re-introduction probably wouldn't work  

Peterson said two mainland wolves visited the island last winter for five days, but did not stay.

He said without predators, the moose population will go unchecked, which creates the potential of long term damage to the island's forest eco-system.  He also said there may not be enough food for the herd, which could lead to starvation.

Peterson said at one time, as many as 50 wolves lived on Isle Royale.

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