Photo Wolf tracks on Michigan’s Isle Royale.

By Tanda Gmiter

ISLE ROYALE, MI – Just months after the National Park Service started a relocation program to trap and transport new wolves to Michigan’s remote Isle Royale in hopes of boosting the dwindling pack, a winter survey that will give researchers their first peek at how the new wolves are fitting into their new home might be called off because of the ongoing federal government shutdown.

Staff from the research project posted a message Sunday night on the Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale Facebook page, alerting their followers that the winter survey, typically done by plane, might be grounded this year.

“It is our present understanding that the 61st Winter Study of Wolves and Moose in Isle Royale National Park will not be allowed during the partial shutdown of the Federal government,” read the brief note.

Based at Michigan Technological University, it is the longest running predator-prey study of its kind.

For decades, researchers have been tracking the number and pack structure of the island’s wolves and its moose. For the last few years, only two wolves have survived on the island in Lake Superior, located about 56 miles from the Upper Peninsula mainland. Meanwhile, the moose population has ballooned to more than 1,500, researchers have said.

The large number of moose and the real possibility of them deforesting the island wilderness, which is also a national park, prompted federal officials to lay out a plan to bring more wolves to the island. They want to build back up the wolf numbers so new packs can keep the moose population in check.

The first new wolves arrived on the island this past fall. More are supposed to come this winter from Ontario, Canada. Future wolves may be trapped in Michigan’s U.P.

While the three new wolves have tracking collars that allow researchers to see where they go on the island, the winter survey is designed to give study researchers even more information. In the past, researchers have been able to get great aerial photos of the island’s two older wolves, their winter kills, and large groupings of moose as they gather in the forest.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay as the partial federal government shutdown is in its third week.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump stood by his demands for more than $5 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as yet another round of shutdown talks didn’t break the impasse, according to the Associated Press. This week, House Democrats say they plan to pass legislation to reopen parts of the government, increasing the pressure on Trump and Republican lawmakers.

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