Superior island that has dwindled to just two and is in danger of vanishing altogether.If the Park Service — which for more than a year has been looking at the fading Isle Royale wolf population and a moose herd that has swelled to 1,300 with its main predator in decline — follows through, it could quickly revive a closed ecosystem on the rugged 45-mile-long island protected from hunting and existing largely outside of human interference.
The National Park Service has proposed transplanting up to 30 wolves to Isle Royale, a historic decision that concedes that extraordinary steps are needed to restore a healthy balance of predator and prey on the wilderness island in Lake Superior.After years of deliberations, the Park Service has concluded in a new report that quickly introducing a significant number of wolves may be the best way to re-establish a healthy population on the island. Only two wolves are left there now — down from a one-time high of 50 — a result of disease, inbreeding and a warming climate that has reduced the frequency of ice bridges that give them a natural route to and from the mainland.
The National Park Service (NPS) has prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement to Address the Presence of Wolves at Isle Royale (draft plan/EIS). Because your feedback is essential to the development of the EIS, we are asking for your thoughtful review and comments during the 90-day comment period, concluding March 15, 2017.The purpose of the draft plan/EIS is to determine whether and how to bring wolves to Isle Royale to function as the apex predator in the near term within a changing and dynamic island ecosystem. A decision is needed because the potential absence of wolves raises concerns about possible effects to Isle Royale’s current ecosystem, including effects to both the moose population and Isle Royale’s forest/vegetation communities.You are encouraged to comment on the draft plan/EIS through this website. Comments can be made by clicking on the “Open for Comment” link at the left side of this page and selecting the document and then clicking “Comment Now” button. You may also mail or hand-deliver your written comments to Superintendent Phyllis Green, Isle Royale National Park, ISRO Wolves, 800 East Lakeshore Drive, Houghton, Michigan 49931-1896.The NPS will schedule public meetings to be held during the comment period in the Great Lakes Region near the park. Dates, times, and locations of these meetings will be announced in press releases and on this site, see Meeting Notices on the left side of this page.As vital contributors to the planning process, we hope you take the opportunity to provide feedback, and if possible, join us at the public meetings. Thank you.
The following are four alternatives that the Park Service is putting out for public comment on the fate of wolves on Isle Royale as only two wolves remain on the island. Public comment is being accepted on the National Park Service website until May 16. Please make a comment.
Alternative A (No-Action Alternative) The NPS would not intervene and would continue current management. Wolves may come and go through natural migration, although the current population of wolves may die out.
Alternative B The NPS would bring wolves to Isle Royale as a one-time event over a defined period of time (e.g. over a 36-month period) to increase the longevity of the wolf population on the island. This action would occur as soon as possible following a signed record of decision.
Alternative C The NPS would bring wolves to Isle Royale as often as needed in order to maintain a population of wolves on the island for at least the next 20 years, which is the anticipated life of the plan. The wolf population range and number of breeding pairs to be maintained on the island would be determined based on best available science and professional judgment. This action would occur as soon as possible following a signed record of decision.
Alternative D The NPS would not take immediate action and would continue current management, allowing natural processes to continue. One or more resource indicators and thresholds would be developed to evaluate the condition of key resources, which could include moose or vegetation-based parameters. If a threshold is met, wolves would be brought to Isle Royale as a one-time event (per alternative B) or through multiple introductions (per alternative C).
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.