HOUGHTON, MIThe wolves of Isle Royale National Park are doing well and should continue to hold their own in the foreseeable future, according to a just completed survey of the island's wolf and moose populations.
Park Superintendent Douglas Barnard said the island's wolf packs added five pups to the total population during the past year, but one adult wolf was killed this winter, leaving the park with 29 wolves at present. Just two years ago, the population had plummeted to 14 and biologists and park officials were concerned about the species' continued survival. But those concerns seem to have been allayed by the wolves' remarkable ability to withstand nature's challenges.
"In general, the island's wolves appear to be in good health and the packs are experiencing normal reproductive success," said Barnard. "We see no reason why this trend shouldn't continue over the next few years."
Michigan Tech University wildlife biologist Dr. Rolf Peterson, who has conducted the annual wolf/moose survey for the National Park Service for the better part of three decades, reports that this year there has been a realignment of pack territories on the island.
"Whereas we used to have three packs dividing the island, now there are essentially only two," said Peterson. "The Middle Pack, which had three surviving pups from last year and now numbers 12 animals, has virtually taken over the former West Pack territory. The West Pack's numbers have steadily declined and they are simply no longer able to defend their territory. There may be a couple of them still alive, but we haven't been able to determine that for certain ." He said there are also two other adult pairs roaming the island, as well as a single adult wolf. The East Pack successfully raised two pups from last year and now has 10 members, which continue to control the east end of the island.
Biologists picked up the carcass of one wolf which succumbed to interpack warfare and witnessed the near demise
Contact: Dr. Rolf Peterson
Michigan Technological University