4 Canadian wolves were relocated to the Isle Royale National Park. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) has a 5-year plan to reintroduce 20-30 wolves to the island in hopes of restoring the predator-prey relationship that once existed. All 4 wolves were examined and given a clean bill of health before being released.
The road to reintroduction has been a rocky one. The OMNRF attempted the first reintroduction in the fall of 2018. They captured 5 wolves in all. The first died in captivity due to complications from the sedative. The other 4 were successfully released onto the island. In November the only male from the reintroduction died of unknown causes. Then, in February, a female found her way across an ice bridge and returned to the mainland.
The total wolf population on the island is now eight; four males and four females.
The Isle Royale is a 206 square mile island in the Great Lakes. It is well known as the subject of a 53-year-long study on moose and wolf populations. It presented a unique opportunity to study their relationships without human interference. Many wondered if a wolf population would actually be able to hunt the moose population to extinction.
To the surprise of many, the wolf population became so inbred that it completely collapsed. In 2018 the only 2 wolves on the island were a father-daughter pair, who shared the same mother. It was at this point that the OMNRF made the decision to start a wolf reintroduction to the area.
The decision did not come lightly. Many argued that the ecosystem should be left alone, just as it had been during the study. Franz Camenzind, a wildlife biologist and board vice president with Wilderness Watch, said, “Allow Isle Royale to be a wilderness park, let its future be shaped as it was during its not so distant past — by nature’s forces.”
Others argued that the situation was “heartbreaking” and that predators were essential for managing the moose population. Moose have flourished in recent years and their numbers have grown all the way to 1600. “Restoring wolves to their pivotal role in Isle Royale National Park is the right thing to do,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Is the OMNRF over-reaching with their decision? Or is a healthy wolf population essential in an area with no other predators or hunting allowed?