Skip to main content

The National Park Service wants to save the wolves on Isle Royale

There are only two highly-inbred wolves left on the island.

The National Park Service wants to step in to help save the wolves on Isle Royale National Park.

There are only two, highly-inbred wolves left on the Lake Superior island, and scientists believe their population won't recover naturally.

That's why the National Park Service wants to introduce 20 to 30 new wolves to the island over the next three years. It's one of four options suggested by the agency to address the declining wolf population and preserve the island ecosystem.

Wolves from the Great Lakes Region – including Minnesota – that are genetically diverse and have the traits needed to survive on the island (like hunting moose) would be captured and then introduced to Isle Royale over the next three years. This is the park service's preferred option, because it believes it will be the best way to re-establish a healthy, self-sustaining wolf population.

Saving the island's ecosystem

Isle Royale is home to the longest predator-prey study in the world, which focuses on wolves and their prey – the moose, the National Parks Conservation Association says.

But the wolf populations have fallen 92 percent since 2009, the 2015-2016 annual wolf report says, in part because of in-breading and because other wolves can't get to the island unless there's an ice bridge from Canada, National Parks Traveler reports.

Because of that, the number of moose on the island has grown. And if their population continues this way, it could ruin the island's ecosystem. National Parks Traveler goes into detail about that, saying eventually moose would eat themselves out of forage (and all the other animals out of forage), which could "send ripples through the park's ecosystem."

What do conservationists think?

The National Park Service usually takes a hands-off management approach to wilderness areas. In fact, it's part of the 1964 Wilderness Act, which defines wilderness as a place that "generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable."

This has some conservationists criticizing the plan, saying introducing wolves onto the island could be in conflict with the act, the National Parks Traveler says.

But others are praising the park service's plan. Environmental ethicist Michael Paul Nelson of Oregon State University in Corvallis told Science it's a "really important step. We are facing a future where human intervention is going to be required to secure ecosystem health. … We can’t just do nothing.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society, also approved of the plan, saying in a statement that humanely capturing wolves and reintroducing them to Isle Royale would "restore the ecological integrity" of the island, as well as help out farmers in Great Lakes states who have had to deal with problem wolves attacking their livestock.

The National Park Service's proposals for how to intervene on Isle Royale is open for public comment through March 15, 2017. If the park service decides to move forward with the plan to introduce wolves over the next three years, it probably wouldn't happen until the winder of 2018-19, Science says.

Next Up

Semi into house near Sturgis, South Dakota

Semi drives into house near Sturgis, South Dakota

The force from the semi was so strong that the foundation of the house was moved.


18-year-old from Zumbrota dies in Goodhue County crash

The crash happened in rural Goodhue County around 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

thomas beach, bde maka ska - lake calhoun

3 Minneapolis beaches closed due to E. coli contamination

No illnesses have been reported, according to the MPRB.


'Hockeyland' documentary debuting in Minnesota movie theaters

The documentary has received great reviews at numerous film festivals.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Former Minnesota Olympic runner accused of driving drunk in Eden Prairie crash

Police said the man's blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.


Man, 79, killed in ATV rollover near Faribault

The man was declared dead at the scene.

minneapolis police

Woman fighting for her life after shooting in Minneapolis

The woman was shot only about a half-hour after a 14-year-old suffered critical injuries in an apparent accidental discharge.

prior lake high school

Two students face discipline over racist messages at Prior Lake High School

Families and students were largely uncooperative with the investigation.

Sharon and Herb Vasser

Cause of Hopkins house explosion that killed couple revealed

Sharon and Herb Vassar were killed in the explosion. Herb built the home back in 1962.

Arrows on target

Charges: Minnesota camp counselor fired arrows at kids, injuring boy

An 8-year-old boy was shot in the arm with an arrow.

North Shore Mayor Chris Swanson.

Two Harbors votes overwhelmingly to recall Mayor Chris Swanson

The mayor had been scrutinized for several things leading up to the vote Tuesday.

Screen Shot 2022-08-10 at 8.43.50 AM

Suspected gunman at large after homicide near Albert Lea

The 32-year-old suspect was last seen in a 2004 white Ford F-150 with Minnesota license number EUZ-057.


Forget the ferry, trips from MN to Isle Royale by seaplane may be coming

Commercial seaplane service from Grand Marais is being considered.

Forget the ferry, trips from MN to Isle Royale by seaplane may be coming

Commercial seaplane service from Grand Marais is being considered.

One of the wolves relocated to Isle Royale has died

Four wolves were moved to the island in Lake Superior by the National Park Service.

Wolf dies after being captured for release on Isle Royale

The Park Service is trying to introduce more wolves to the island.

Playtime over for the moose on Isle Royale ... the wolves are coming

The National Park Service confirmed they'll add 20-30 wolves to the island by 2023.

Wolves on Isle Royale nearly extinct

Scientists say one of the world's most closely studied predator populations might vanish within a few years. The Associated Press says a streak of bad luck has left only nine wolves on the island in western Lake Superior. Scientists blame a shortage of females, inbreeding, disease and starvation caused by the decline in moose populations.