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Isle Royale is a 45 mile long 9 mile wide, 143.000 acre island situated in complex of 450 smaller surrounding islands located in the northwest of Lake Superior, making up Isle Royale National Park. It is part of the US state of Michigan and the second largest island in the Great Lakes with a primarily boreal forest habitat.
Wolves initially crossed the ice from the neighboring mainland of Ontario to Isle Royale in 1949 to find a thriving moose population inhabiting the island. The moose, who also did not inhabit the island initially, swam over to it from Minnesota in the early 1900’s.
Since 1958, scientists have conducted the longest research study of it’s kind on the predator-prey relationship between the wolves and moose on the island. The wolf – moose populations since the onset of the study have risen and fallen in drastic fluctuations, with no real stabilization. Wolf numbers have ranged from 2 currently to 50 in 1980. Moose populations have ranged from 385 in 2007 to 2,422 in 1995.
Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, scientists from Michigan Technological University who lead the Isle Royale study support the genetic intervention of additional wolves to the island. Phyllis Green, the park’s superintendent, said that her staff will make a final decision by fall of 2017 as to whether or not wolves would be brought in and if so, whether to bring them in before the current population dies off.