HOUGHTON — After years of study, public engagement, and planning, the first wolves in a National Park Service (NPS) wolf translocation project to restore predation to the island ecosystem have been moved to Isle Royale National Park from the Grand Portage Indian Reservation.
On Wednesday, September 26, late in the day, two gray wolves, a 4-year old female and a 5-year old male, were taken to the island on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aircraft. The wolves were then carried to separate release sites away from the public and the territory of the two resident wolves. It did not take long for the female to leave the crate and begin exploring her new home on the island. The male left his crate after dark. Other wolves will join the two in the coming weeks.
“We have been planning this relocation operation with our partners and are very pleased with the progress so far,” said Superintendent Phyllis Green. “Releasing these two wolves on the island is the first step to restoring the ecological dynamic in the park. The assistance of all our partners is critical to the success of this effort.” On this project, the NPS is collaborating with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, U.S. Geological Survey, University of Minnesota, and multiple NPS units.
The male and female wolves released on the island Wednesday came from different pack territories on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in northeastern Minnesota. Both wolves received medical examinations by NPS wildlife veterinarian Michelle Verant and wildlife veterinarian Tiffany Wolf of the University of Minnesota, before they were transported. Both were found to be in good condition and apparently healthy. Each wolf weighs approximately 75 pounds and has a thick coat of light tan, gray, and white fur with black markings, which is typical of gray wolves in the region. The wolves were vaccinated and fitted with GPS collars.
The Record of Decision for the Plan to Address Wolf Presence on Isle Royale National Park was signed by the NPS Midwest Regional Director Cam Sholly in June. The goal for this fall is to translocate up to six wolves from the Minnesota and Michigan mainland to the park. This is the first phase of a three- to five-year effort to relocate up to 20-30 wolves to the isolated island park. Researchers recommended this number of wolves to establish adequate genetic variability to help accomplish the overall goal of restoring predation as a key part of the ecosystem on the island. The NPS plans to monitor ecological conditions and other factors, such as predation rates, genetics, moose-wolf ratios, and terrestrial and aquatic vegetation impacts to evaluate project success.