National Park Service releases Record of Decision to introduce wolves at Isle Royale National Park

HOUGHTON — Efforts to restore the predator-prey dynamic on Isle Royale National Park has been officially approved by the National Park Service.

According to a press release, the National Park Service has prepared and approved a Record of Decision for the Final Environmental Impact Statement to Address the Presence of Wolves at Isle Royale National Park. Approval of the ROD and EIS culminates an extensive public engagement and environmental impact analysis effort that began in 2015.

The National Park Service Midwest Regional Director Cam Sholly signed the Record of Decision on Thursday.

“This decision is an important step forward in attempting to obtain a proper predator-prey dynamic within the Isle Royale National Park ecosystem,” he said in the statement. “We appreciate the intense public involvement throughout this process and look forward to continued outreach as this decision is implemented.”

The NPS will introduce wolves at Isle Royale to fulfill the function of the apex predator. Over a three to five year period, the NPS will introduce between 20-30 wolves on the island. This is the historical average number of wolves on Isle Royale and expected to have an immediate effect on the island moose population, which has not been subject to predator pressure for some time and is increasing.

The most recent assessment of the wolf population indicates that two related individual animals remain within the park. The impacts of genetic inbreeding and the tenuous nature of ice bridge formation, which is the only mechanism for wolf re-population, make it very unlikely that natural recovery of the wolf population can occur.

Without this action, the extirpation of wolves was expected, which raised concerns about possible effects to the current Isle Royale ecosystem, including impacts of an unchecked moose population and its indirect effect on forest/vegetation communities. Although wolves have not always been part of Isle Royale, they have been present for more than 65 years, and have played a key role in the ecosystem.

The NPS will now begin actively developing specific implementation strategies, and logistics for the capture, relocation and introduction of wolves from the Great Lakes Region to Isle Royale.