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

snow

Here's how much snow fell in Minnesota on Sunday

Some localized areas saw more than expected.

Lindsay Guentzel

For The Week: What's harder than making a meal plan? Sticking to it!

Lindsay Guentzel says you shouldn't give up on your meal planning routines.

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 11.15.34 AM

Two people fatally shot by police in Wadena County, two officers injured

Another man was shot in the altercation, which police claim started when one of the suspects opened fire on officers.

snow, plow

Winter storm warnings issued as snow system shifts in Minnesota

The worst of the snow will now hit further north, affecting areas including St. Cloud and the I-94 corridor.

Matt Dumba

Matt Dumba beats the clock to give Wild sixth straight win

Dumba scored as overtime came to a close for another Wild victory.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Bradley Beal terrorizes Timberwolves in loss to Wizards

Beal and the Wizards handed the Wolves their seventh straight defeat.

Marcus Carr / Gopher basketball

Gophers tourney hopes take another blow with loss to Nebraska

Marcus Carr scored a career-high 41 points, but Minnesota is still winless on the road.

St. Paul police

St. Paul police arrest teenage boy in carjacking crackdown

This comes amid a dramatic spike in Twin Cities carjackings.

snow

Snow latest: Twin Cities set for up to 4 inches

A narrow system will travel across Minnesota overnight.

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.