Skip to main content

Only 3 gray wolves left on Isle Royale, scientists fear they won't survive

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

The presence of gray wolves at Isle Royale National Park could come to an end soon, with a recent census finding only three remain.

The Pioneer Press reports that inbreeding and illness has led to a "sharp drop-off" in wolf numbers, which stood at 24 in 2009 but has continued to fall since.

The island in Lake Superior and its population of wolves and moose have been subject to a scientific study for more than 50 years, the newspaper notes.

According to the Detroit News, the moose population has now risen to 1,250 because the number of wolves who prey on them has fallen so drastically.

The newspaper adds that the leaders of the study, Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, from Michigan Technological University, have been calling on park officials to bring more wolves to the island to "replenish the gene" pool.

But even then there is a chance the wolves won't survive or proliferate, with the Star Tribune noting that the three remaining wolves consist of two adults and a 9-month old pup.

The two adults are believed to be a breeding pair, so they are unlikely to mate with another wolf, and though they could have more pups together, Peterson told the newspaper they are reaching the end of their reproductive lives.

"You don't have the sense there is much time left." he said, adding that the other option would be moving an entirely new wolf pack over to the 45-mile long island.

Figures from the Isle Royale Wolf and Moose Project show that wolf numbers peaked at around 50 in 1980. Moose numbers reached around 2,400 in 1990s, which led to mass starvation due to a harsh winter in 1996.

Next Up

Winter scene snow storm snowfall highway driving traffic - Joe Nelson Feb 2022 4

Winter storm warning for Twin Cities: 6+ inches possible

The heaviest snow could move through the Twin Cities.

police lights

Carver man charged after standoff with police in Prior Lake

The man had been fleeing from police when he allegedly broke into a home and the standoff ensued.

ambulance

41-year-old Sherburne County man killed after crashing car into ditch

The crash occurred Sunday night in Palmer Township.

Screen Shot 2022-11-28 at 4.01.10 PM

Around 200 rescued after ice breaks free on Upper Red Lake

Red Lake — both Upper and Lower — is the largest freshwater lake in the state.

Screen Shot 2022-11-28 at 9.38.30 AM

St. Paul featured on Hallmark Channel's 'Christmas Cam' livestream

Downtown's dazzling display can be viewed from anywhere in the world.

JamborMugshot

Charges: Drunk driver almost struck Bemidji parade spectators

The man told police he was trying to attend the parade himself.

6

The SCHEELS Experience

Whether looking for reliable hunting and fishing gear or new clothing and shoes, Eden Prairie SCHEELS is a one-stop shopping experience for the whole family.

0

Charges: Man fatally shot ex's new partner as he dined at Bloomington restaurant

Criminal charges filed Monday detail an alleged motive in the shooting.

MetallicaLiveLondonWikimedia

Metallica to perform 2 nights in Minneapolis on 2023-24 World Tour

The heavy metal rock band returns to the state for the first time since 2018.

snow, plow

Tuesday storm to dump plowable snow in Minnesota

Snow should reach the Twin Cities Tuesday morning and fall throughout the day.

Related

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.

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.