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Winter research on Isle Royale postponed until 2022

Factors leading to the decision include the border closure between the United States and Canada and the strain of the pandemic on local resources.
FILE. Photo courtesy: Michigan Technological University and Rolf Peterson. Isle Royale wolves...
FILE. Photo courtesy: Michigan Technological University and Rolf Peterson. Isle Royale wolves in 2017.(WLUC)
Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 12:59 PM EST
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - Winter research activities at Isle Royale National Park won’t happen this year, for the first time in more than six decades.

Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials, and to support the nation’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, NPS personnel and researchers will not be conducting research on Isle Royale this winter.

Researchers from Michigan Technological University, State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the NPS planned to conduct various aspects of ecosystem research this winter as part of a long-term research program and assess the ecological impacts of restoring wolves to the ecosystem.

The remote island wilderness of Isle Royale cannot claim to be a refuge from the pandemic. Factors leading to the decision include the border closure between the United States and Canada, inadequate aviation resources to transport personnel and cargo and assist in emergency evacuation if warranted, and the strain of the pandemic on local resources.

“While this will be the first time since 1959 that the winter research has not occurred, the NPS and our partners are confident in the decision to prioritize personnel health and safety,” noted Isle Royale Superintendent, Denice Swanke. Isle Royale National Park is annually closed to visitation from November 1 to April 15.

The NPS will work with partners to maximize opportunities in the upcoming summer field season to document wolf population changes through the collection of genetic material from feces, remote cameras, and other techniques not involving direct observation. However, with respect to the moose population, efficient and feasible methods are not yet available to provide a population estimate during the summer field season in 2021.

To learn more about Isle Royale’s wolves and the introduction efforts or the park, you can watch the CuriosityStream filmReturn of the Wolves — CuriosityStream, produced in partnership with the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation, and read the recently published summary report at https://www.nps.gov/isro/index.htm.  You can also visit www.isleroyalewolves.org and globalwildlifecc.org/research/species-recovery/isle-royale-wolf-recovery for additional information.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for the 423 parks in the National Park System and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit the NPS website, or follow the National Park Service on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

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