Two wolves were released this week on Lake Superior’s Isle Royale in an effort to repopulate the island’s wolf population that has dwindled to just 2 in recent years.
The move comes after years of debate as to whether the U.S. National Park Service should intervene with the natural course of things on the island. A decision was finally reached last year that in order to prevent overpopulation by moose which would eventually strip Isle Royale of their food source and mass starvation, the wolf population would have to be restocked.
Two gray wolves were transported from the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in Minnesota late Wednesday and flown to Isle Royale. The 4-year-old female and 5-year-old male were released in separate areas and away from the island’s two remaining wolves.
“It did not take long for the female to leave the crate and begin exploring her new home on the island. The male left his crate after dark,” the NPS said in a press release. “Other wolves will join the two in the coming weeks.”
Isle Royale’s moose number around 1,600 and the plan is to build the wolf population up to 30 animals over the next few years. Wolves first came to the island in the 1940s via an ice bridge from the mainland. Wolves have come to the island the same way in recent years, but have not stayed on the island.
Isle Royale lies in the northwest corner of Lake Superior 15 miles from the Canadian border and 56 miles from Copper Harbor in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The island is 46 miles long and up to 9 miles wide. There are 450 surrounding islands and 6 inland lakes within the 206 square miles. Isle Royale is the second largest island in the Great Lakes after the Canadian island of Manatoulin in northern Lake Huron.
The remote island is the least visited national park and the isolation makes it a popular destination for backpackers, kayakers, and fisherman. The Rock Harbor Lodge and surrounding cabins offer a wilderness get-a-way for those who prefer to keep their boots clean on vacation.
Isle Royale has the longest running predator/prey study in the United States dating back to the 1950s.