A National Park Service plan hopes to introduce up to 30 wolves to Isle Royale in Lake Superior. The topic is open for public comment until March 15.
Down to just two wolves in the past five years, a new plan hopes to revitalize the presence of alpha carnivores in the dynamic island habitat off the northern coast of Minnesota.
The public comment period opened December 15, 2016, and will provide more context to decision makers about whether wolves should be introduced, and how to reintroduce them.
Found 23 miles off the tip of Minnesota in Lake Superior, Isle Royale hosts hikers, kayakers and canoers, backpackers, and even scuba divers. Visitors can camp and explore, taking in wildlife, including the abounding population of moose.
Soon, wolf sightings could be more common.
To get to the National Park, there are ferry services that shuttle visitors. Boats from Grand Portage, Minn., Houghton, Mich., and Copper Harbor, Mich., all make round trips to the island. The difficulty in access leads to a true wilderness experience.
Isle Royale Habitat
Wolves used to widely populate Isle Royale, and visitors were graced (or frightened) by seeing the apex predators in the park. Currently, however, the lack of wolves is drastically changing the environment.
“Moose [populations] are skyrocketing, and we are seeing changes to the plant community,” said Ecologist Matthew Gompper from the University of Missouri in Columbia.
The moose eat balsam fir, aspen, birch, and mountain ash trees so heavily the landscape is changing into an open spruce savannah, as noted in Nature’s recent coverage. Because of the lack of wolves, who pray on moose, this change is likely to continue.
The Park Service predicts the remaining wolf pair has little chance of producing viable offspring.
Wolf Reintroduction Controversy
External factors limited a conventional ecosystem on the island over the past decades. The Nature.com article goes on to remark viruses from domesticated dogs and a less frequently frozen Lake Superior negatively impact the existence of wolves. Additionally, the explosion of moose tick population dramatically harm moose on Isle Royale.
These unique variables give a futile chance of predictable reintroduction.
Contrastingly, Yellowstone National Park experienced a wolf reintroduction success story in 1995. The landscape changed from being overgrazed to allow different vegetation to return and wildlife with it.
Will a similar revitalization occur on Isle Royale? Express your opinion about the Environmental Impact Statement on the NPS site.