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Through various forms of evidence researchers have confirmed at least 3 new litters
By Elizabeth Peterson
ISLE ROYALE, Mich. (WLUC) – Wolf encounters on Isle Royale are on the rise. Proving a healthy population of wolves is growing in the National Park.
It had been years since Jessie Szpredja visited Isle Royale. She went back last month to reconnect to a place she holds close to her heart.
“I grew up going to Isle Royale,” said Szpredja. “It’s kind of a place of nostalgia for me.”
Szpredja knew her trip would include adventure, serene landscapes, and various wildlife sightings.
“Everyone expects to see a moose because it’s a very realistic experience,” said Szpredja.
But just like most visitors to Isle Royale she never expected to see a wolf.
“When I did see one, it was like a bolt of lightning hit me.”
She woke up one morning to the sound of a moose swimming across an inlet. She said she quickly realized she was watching more than just a leisurely swim.
“The splashing grew greater and I saw a wolf running across the shoreline, chasing the swimming moose, it was incredible!”
Her video is one of a number of videos and photographs taken this summer on Isle Royale. Another backpacker caught video of a wolf right alongside him on the trail. And countless others show curious wolves, seemingly unbothered by visitors.
They are all sightings and observations that are providing insight to scientists on the island who have more questions regarding the wolves right now than answers.
No one knows exactly how many wolves are on the island. No one knows what packs have formed or where those territory boundaries are. Specific details that will ultimately be learned during this winter’s wolf count. Last year’s count was canceled.
So for now, researchers like John Vucetich and Sarah Hoy at Michigan Tech University are learning what they can from where they can.
“They’ve formed these stable social groups, they formed territories, they’ve given birth, said Vucetich. “So they’re doing everything you expect a wolf pack to do.”
Sarah Hoy added, “We now know there’s been at least three litters of pups that have been born on the island, which is super exciting and that’s exactly what we would have hoped. It’s really nice to get these different pieces of the puzzle.”
But why are they interacting so frequently with humans?
“On the mainland here in Michigan and in Wisconsin wolves are pretty heavily persecuted by humans, you know they get shot at, so they know pretty plainly to stay away, now when wolves are in a place like Isle Royale where they’re not persecuted, they have options on how to relate to humans,” said Vucetich.
But that doesn’t mean visitors to the island should take these encounters lightly.
And Szprejda, as unexpected as her encounter was knew what she needed to do.
“These wolves are not wolves at the zoo,” she said, “you need to give them space and the less contact they have with humans, the better it is for them.”