Isle Royale National Park is a remote island in Lake Superior where only two wolves remain, the lowest population in more than 50 years. Scientists believe there is little chance for a natural recovery in the population. As top predator, wolves play a critical role in the health of the island ecosystem.

The National Park Service undertook an extensive environmental analysis and consulted subject-matter experts to determine the best approach to address the loss of the park’s wolf population. The Park Service released a final analysis in March 2018 recommending the introduction of 20-30 wolves to the park over a three-year period. The Park Service needs to finalize the decision and has indicated they could begin implementation as soon as fall 2018.

“The introduction of wolves would restore the ecological function of predation to the island and support the natural quality of wilderness.” -National Park Service, Environmental Impact Statement to Address the Presence of Wolves, 2018, p. C-32.

NPCA has long-advocated for the Park Service to bring new wolves to the island to help achieve a sustainable population. We support this plan that will ensure this iconic species won’t disappear from the park.

The Dilemma

Isle Royale National Park is a remote island in Lake Superior that is 99 percent federally designated wilderness. It is home to the longest predator-prey study in the world, marking its 60th year in 2018, focused on the interplay between the island’s most famous residents, its wolves and moose.

Right now there are only two wolves left on the island that are inbred, making a natural recovery unlikely.

Reason for the Decline

Wolves served as effective predators for decades, but over the years many factors reduced the population, and now warming temperatures have compromised the animals’ only route on and off the island.

Historically, ice bridges formed on Lake Superior to the mainland for more than 50 days a year, allowing wolves ample time to migrate. Over the last 20 years, these bridges have been far less common and consistent, effectively stranding the two last wolves at Isle Royale and preventing newcomers.

A Park Without Wolves?

Wolves play a critical role as the top predator on the island, and their dwindling numbers have resulted in a rising moose population. In the absence of a predator, the moose population is growing and may double in the next four to five years, throwing the ecosystem out of balance as they devastate the island’s vegetation, eliminating their food source and impacting other native species.

Bringing new wolves to Isle Royale is the best method for protecting the long-term survival of the island’s wildlife while supporting a balanced and sustainable ecosystem at the park.

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