NPS: 20-30 wolves to be introduced on Isle Royale over next 3 years

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - The call of the wolf will soon be heard more on Isle Royale, under a National Park Service decision that follows three years of research and feedback.

"For most of our visitors, the chance to hear wolves howl in the wilderness has been a positive experience for them," said Phyllis Green, Isle Royale National Park Superintendent.

Park leaders announced six months ago that they want to add 20-30 wolves over three years. With that recommendation becoming official Thursday, the National Park Service will begin searching the Great Lakes region for wolves to move.

"We hope to capture from as many wide-ranging geographic areas as possible to maximize the genetic variability of the population that we end up putting into the park," said Mark Romanski, Isle Royale National Park Chief of Natural Resources.

Romanski says the park service will work with natural resource agencies from surrounding states to take wolves from areas where numbers are strong.

After Isle Royale's busiest time for visitors ends in September, the moving process should begin.

"We will be using primarily fixed-wing aircraft and our partner resources, which may include helicopters," said Romanski. "We also will move by boat, if feasible."

Research from Michigan Tech University shows wolf numbers on Isle Royale started plummeting nine years ago, dropping from 24 wolves to the existing two.

The population shrunk as the number of moose, a food source for wolves, also declined. But moose have now rebounded, and the park is seeking a balance between the two species.

Romanski says the new wolves on Isle Royale will be monitored.

"We will also be employing radio collars," he said. "We will use a mix of VHF and GPS collars. This will allow us to not only collect data not only on a fine scale, but also over a number of years."

Green says the Grand Portage and Keweenaw Bay Indian tribes were not in favor of humans getting involved with wolf numbers. However, she says the tribes are now supportive of the project, watching to see if it decreases the moose population.

"To gain information that will help them in their own management of tribal resources on the mainland," said Green.

The National Park Service says it expects to spend a total of $660,000 over the next three years on the introduction work.

As for the two wolves on the island right now, the plan is to put the new wolves in a separate area initially so it takes some time for them to mix.

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