Did you know just two wolves are living on Isle Royale National Park (as of August)? Since wolves first inhabited the island more than 50 years ago, 50 wolves were a commonplace but due to the physical and reproductive impacts of inbreeding, the wolf population decreased steadily over the years. Add in changing climates leading to a lack of ice bridges across Lake Superior to the mainland, and these wolves face a variety of adversity to continue thriving where they are needed.
This decrease has not only impacted the wolf population within Isle Royale, but also lead to a major increase in the moose population – increasing over 16% each year. If the moose population continues to grow at that rate and remain unchecked, it could dramatically impact the island’s ecology for the worse – leading to a massive moose die-off.
What is being done to shift this ecosystem back toward normal? The National Park Service recently launched an initiative to reintroduce 20-30 wolves to Isle Royale over the course of three years. On Sept. 27, 2018, the first two wolves – a male and female – were transported and released on Isle Royale in an effort to restore the wolf population. On Oct. 5, two more female wolves were introduced to the island. Efforts will continue throughout the year and the wolves will be monitored to track their progress and success.
Coincidentally, National Wolf Awareness Week begins on Oct. 14 which comes at a perfect time to honor these recent efforts and highlight the importance of wolves in our ecosystem. To get involved in the week, the Detroit Zoological Society is hosting a special celebration at the Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness exhibit within the park. Guests will hear from zookeepers and take part in hands-on activities all geared around the zoo’s gray wolves, Waziyata and Kaskapahtew.
For more information on wildlife conservation efforts in Michigan, visit the Department of Natural Resources website.