Friday, May 29, 2015

U.S. Senators urge action to address wolf population at Isle Royale

by Aaron Boehm Posted: 05.29.2015
WASHINGTON D.C. -- U.S. Senator Gary Peters sent a letter urging the National Park Service to consider actions to address the sharp decline of the wolf population at Isle Royale National Park.

The current estimated timeline for planning a final decision is at least two to three years, and the NPS has already indicated they will not bring new wolves to Isle Royale in the immediate term.

The letter, which was also signed by Senators Mazie Hirono, Martin Heinrich and Debbie Stabenow, urges the NPS to accelerate its timeline to complete planning in a year or less. They would also like them to keep all options on the table that could help reverse the decline of the wolf population, including the introduction of new wolves to continue the genetic line.

“An extinction of wolves at Isle Royale could lead to significant, harmful changes to the ecosystem in this remote park,” the Senators wrote. “The three remaining wolves may struggle to reproduce, and if they do produce offspring, the tiny genetic pool will lead to inbreeding and further complications. Unless the NPS acts quickly, wolves are almost sure to disappear from Isle Royale.”

The unique, naturally occurring wolf pack on Isle Royale arrived more than 50 years ago by crossing a frozen Lake Superior. The wolf population on the island once reached 50 wolves and has averaged about 25 wolves until a population crash in recent years. Michigan Technological University ecologist John Vucetich, part of a team that surveys the wolf population, has stated that he would not be surprised if no wolves remain by next winter.

Official NPS planning documents recognize the important role that wolves play in the Isle Royale ecosystem, including helping to keep the park’s moose population in check. Moose numbers have already increased significantly in recent years and would likely continue to grow unchecked without the wolf population until an eventual population collapse due to overbrowsing of vegetation in Isle Royale’s ecosystem.

To read the full letter, click here