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Weekend effort to move seven wolves to Isle Royale a major success

The project was funded by the International Wolf Center, the Lake Superior National Parks Foundation and private donors

 

Contact:
Chad Richardson
Communications Director
International Wolf Center
763-560-7374, ext. 225
chad@wolf.org

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – An urgent effort to relocate seven gray wolves from Michipicoten Island and Canada’s mainland to Isle Royale has ended with success. The effort, which ran from Friday through Sunday, successfully and efficiently moved seven gray wolves at risk of death because of a shortage of prey.

The operation was funded with $45,000 from the International Wolf Center and $30,000 from the Lake Superior National Parks Foundation. Through a GoFundMe account online, another $11,500 was raised.

“We are honored to have played a role in this important operation,” said Rob Schultz, the executive director of the International Wolf Center. “We have been relaying updates of the capture and transfer progress to media and the public throughout the weekend.”

Isle Royale National Park superintendent Phyllis Green said the project on Michipicoten this weekend to save those hungry wolves would not have happened if countless donors didn’t step forward.

“I just want to thank everyone who donated,” she said. “On Saturday, we were watching the money aspects of this. It really helped to have all the donations that came in. We were pretty much right on the mark for what the estimate was and what came in from donors. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Three wolves were captured and moved Friday by teams of professionals. On Saturday, another four were moved. Of the seven, three were female. Six came from Michipicoten Island and one came from Canada’s mainland.

“They were long days, but we had a really wonderful result,” Green said. “We were coordinating five aircraft and seven wolves, arriving independently. It was very intense.”

It is believed that a 2-year-old female that was moved from Michipicoten to Isle Royale may be pregnant. If she were to give birth on Isle Royale this spring, those would be the first pups born on the island since 2014, according to Rolf Peterson, the lead researcher studying wolves and moose on the island.

“Any reproduction on the island this year would be pretty remarkable,” Peterson said. Peterson followed the weekend’s events closely.

“I was just glad it was successfully concluded,” he said. “There are so many ways it can go wrong. You’re nervous until it’s over.”

Peterson and the researchers now will wait to see how the island’s new inhabitants form their packs

“We just have to wait now until the wolves organize their personal lives and get on with things,” he said. “It’s been seven years out there since wolf predation had any impact on moose out there. It will be good to see that going again.”

The males captured on Michipicoten were close to healthy weights, but the females weighed between 50 and 60 pounds, far below what is considered healthy. The low female weights are due to the fact that the wolves on Michipicoten had run out of prey. Meanwhile, Isle Royale is populated by more than 1,600 moose, which is far above what biologists think is viable for the island to sustain. Too many moose on Isle Royale will lead to the overconsumption of vegetation, eventually causing severe damage to the the island’s ecosystem and raising concerns that the moose population may collapse.

By reintroducing wolves to the island, the moose will again have a natural predator to keep their population at sustainable levels. Scientists expect the two populations to again manage themselves as they had done on the island for decades. These seven new wolves join eight that were already on the island, including six that have been reintroduced since September through other efforts.

“Now our focus will turn to following the researchers as they study the impact of these new wolves on Isle Royale,” Schultz said. “As we move into the summer months, we look forward to working closely with the National Park Service and the Lake Superior National Parks Foundation to begin planning the next phase of wolf reintroduction efforts that are expected to occur this fall.”

About 20 to 30 new gray wolves are expected to be introduced to Isle Royale National Park over the next three to five years.

The International Wolf Center, founded in 1985, is known worldwide as the premier source for wolf information and education. The mission of the Center is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The Center educates through its website, its ambassador wolves, museum exhibits, educational outreach programs, International Wolf magazine, and a beautiful interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota.