By Tanda Gmiter

Isle Royale, MI – In the last couple months, the new wolves transplanted onto Michigan’s remote Isle Royale have had a lot of privacy to explore their new home.

The 206-square-mile national park is closed to visitors for the season, and the researchers behind the effort to boost the island’s dwindling wolf population are giving the new arrivals a hands-off approach.

But the GPS tracking collars the new wolves were fitted with are showing just how well they are covering their new territory – and one spot on the island they’d rather not go.

Of the four wolves trapped on tribal lands in nearby Grand Portage, Minnesota, and released on Isle Royale, the movements of three females are currently being monitored. The fourth wolf, a male, died weeks after being released on the island. The cause of his death has not yet been disclosed.

This week, the park service released new information about where on the island the new wolves have been venturing.

Take a look at the GPS track map below, and we’ll explain what you’re seeing.

Images courtesy of the National Park Service

GPS tracking data show where the island’s new wolves have been roaming in the last couple months.

What the Maps Show

The maps showing the red, green and yellow GPS tracking signals belong to the three female wolves. The first was released on the island in late September. The last two were captured on the mainland and released on Isle Royale in early October.

The map with the smaller number of blue GPS signals belonged to the park’s new male wolf, who was found dead by park staff in late fall.

Here’s what the park staff have to say about the new wolves’ movements:

“What  have we learned so far? The resident wolves have marked their territory  well!” park officials said on Facebook this week.  “Although the new wolves have been exploring everywhere – as far  as Duncan Bay and Amygdaloid Island – they seldom dare to enter the  section of island south of the Greenstone Ridge from Blake Point to Lake  Richie … “

** A note on the map markings:  The photos are showing the wolves’ location data from the day after their individual releases until a few days ago. The green square on each wolf’s map is the beginning of the track, and the red square is the end.

Photo courtesy of NPS / Alex Picavet

Isle Royale NPS staff secure the third captured wolf on NPS boat, the Beaver.

Photo courtesy of NPS / Molly Cooper

Staff carry the third crated wolf to the release site while veterinarian Samantha Gibbs (USFWS) observes.

Photo courtesy of NPS / Molly Cooper

Project Coordinator and Chief of Natural Resources Mark Romanski prepares to open the crate for the release of the third new wolf.

Photo courtesy of NPS / Jim Peaco

The third wolf relocated to Isle Royale National Park leaves her crate in less than an hour.

Why Are They Steering Clear of the Southern Part of the Island?

The reason the new wolves aren’t venturing too deep into the island’s south quadrant? That would be Isle Royale’s two longtime wolves – a male and female whose family tree DNA is so twisted they aren’t likely to have viable offspring.

The two older wolves have been a lone pair for years. Together, they are the last remnants of the island’s formerly robust pack system.

But when it was clear they’d stay alone, the park decided to try relocating up to 30 new wolves over the next five years in order to bring back the predator factor needed to keep the island’s growing moose population in check. At last count, the island’s moose had pushed past 1,600.

The section of island south of the Greenstone Ridge is  “the assumed general territory of the resident wolves,” park staff said.

“Not only are we  tracking the new wolves, but we are also learning what the resident wolves claim to be theirs.”

And while all this is technically happening in Michigan, the island is a far reach from the bulk of the Upper Peninsula.

Isle Royale sits in the northwest portion of Lake Superior. It’s about 15 miles from the Canadian border, and 56 miles from the U.P. mainland.

The island’s first resident wolves crossed over on ice bridges in the 1940s, researchers said.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Technological University, and the Wolves and moose of Isle Royale project

The island’s two longtime wolves, a male and female who are very inter-related.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Technological University, and the Wolves and moose of Isle Royale project

In this 2018 photo, the female is shown rejecting the male’s advances.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Technological University, and the Wolves and moose of Isle Royale project

The island’s longtime wolf pair have been spotted traveling together for the last few years.

About Those Tracking Collars …

After being captured, weighed, measured and vet-checked, one of the last things to happen to the transplanted wolves before their release on the island was being fitted with their GPS tracking collars. Why wait until the last minute?

“This step was held off as long as possible because once installed, they  begin running on a limited supply of battery,” park staff said. On average, each collar  will last two years, then will automatically pop off the wolf and need to be retrieved by staff. We can learn a lot in these two years.”

“In addition to tracking movements, the team can also know if they (the wolves) come  within 250 meters of each other. This is critical to figuring out how wolves are pairing up and if packs begin to form.”

Photo courtesy of USFWS / Courtney Celley

USFWS Wildlife Veterinarian Samantha Gibbs (left), Grand Portage Wildlife Biologist Seth Moore, USGS Research Wildlife Biologist Shannon Barber-Meyer, and others work together to fit the first male wolf with a radio collar. This wolf would later be found dead on the island in October.

Photo courtesy of NPS / Jim Peaco

Not all of the wolves caught for relocation were good candidates to be released on the island. This female wolf was caught in Grand Portage, Minnesota, and released back onto tribal lands the same day.  In this photo, Roger (Poe) Deschampe Jr. and Seth Moore of Grand Portage work with NPS Wildlife Vet Michelle Verant to collar the wolf that they later released.

Photo courtesy of NPS | Jacob W. Frank

The first set of ear tags for Isle Royale relocated wolves.

A Couple Rough Spots

Of several wolves caught and checked over in Minnesota this fall, four were brought by boat or seaplane for release on Isle Royale.

Three of those now remain, all female, along with the island’s longtime male and female wolf pair.

The new male wolf was found dead in October, with no obvious cause, staff said. Its body was taken to the U.S. Geological Services wildlife health lab in Madison, Wisconsin, for a necropsy. Results are expected this month.

The male wolf was the project’s second wolf death. The first was a female wolf who was captured in Minnesota, but died before she could be transferred to the island, park officials said.

This winter, more wolves are expected to be caught and brought to Isle Royale, this time working with partners in Ontario, Canada.

Wolves from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula could also be captured as part of the project, though no timeframe has been released for that.

Photo courtesy of USFWS / Courtney Celley

Veterinarians examine the male wolf’s canine teeth before he is transferred to the island

Photo courtesy of NPS / Jacob W. Frank

The first female wolf is shown looking at a remote camera shortly before leaving her crate.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Technological University, and the Wolves and moose of Isle Royale project

An overhead view of moose on Isle Royale, some bedded down and some standing. This photo was taken by researchers in early 2018.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Technological University, and the Wolves and moose of Isle Royale project

One of Isle Royale’s large moose. The island’s moose population was last estimated at 1,600 and accelerating.

via: Tracking collars on new Isle Royale wolves show there is 1 spot they won’t go |