Unexpected cause of death for Isle Royale Wolf

A necropsy has determined that a pellet gun wound is the cause of death of a wolf that recently left Isle Royale National Park.

The lightweight pellet traveled between two ribs to enter the wolf’s chest and ultimately caused fatal damage. The remains of the female, non-pregnant wolf were found on the shore of Lake Superior on February 8, and was radio-collared at the Park as part of a long-term study conducted by the researchers at Michigan Technological University in cooperation with the National Park Service.

“Wolf movement to and from Isle Royale National Park across ice ‘bridges’ during extremely cold winters has occurred historically, but is not common,” superintendent Phyllis Green said. “The studies at Isle Royale have helped us know these wolves on an individual level and this is the first insight we’ve had into travels of a wolf after leaving the Island. This year, several ice bridges formed, and the natural movement of this lone wolf from Isle Royale is not surprising.”

Sharing the land with wolves can be inspiring and challenging. While residents encountering a wolf near their home or community might take non-lethal steps to scare the animal away, people also need to be aware of local regulations about nuisance animals.

The necropsy was conducted by pathologists at Colorado State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in cooperation with National Park Service veterinarians. Remains will be returned to Michigan for researchers at Michigan Tech to conduct further research.