Experts and Citizens Discuss Options for Dying Population of Isle Royale Wolves

Updated: 06/20/2013 11:36 PM By: Naomi Pescovitz

More than 100 people packed a Minneapolis auditorium Thursday night to learn about options for a dying population of wolves at Isle Royale National Park.

The relationship between the wolves and moose on the island has been studied for more than half of a century.

"The wolf population has sunk to its lowest level in 60 years, its whole history is only 60 years long," said Dr. Rolf Peterson, Research Professor at Michigan Technological University and Principal Investigator of the Wolf-Moose Study at Isle Royale.

There are now only eight wolves left and this year for the first time there was no evidence of reproduction.

"These are high functioning animals but if they are not reproducing, they don't last long. Because an individual wolf usually doesn't live that long," Peterson said.

"Inbreeding might finally have caught up with them for good," Peterson said.

The National Park Service has three options. They could conserve the population by adding new wolves to the mix, wait until the wolves die out then bring new ones to the island, or do nothing at all even if the wolves disappear.

"If you are talking about intervening, you better have your ducks pretty well in a row, otherwise the unintended consequences could be severe and unusual," said Dr. Tim Cochrane, long-time Isle Royale researcher and ethno-historian.

"Now I think it's best to try to conserve the wolf population that's right there, to restore wolf predation fairly quickly," Peterson said.

The National Park Service is expected to make a decision by the fall when there will also be additional opportunities for public comment.

Click here for more information on the wolf population.