A project of wildlife specialists at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, it is also to increase the wolf population that has dwindled over the years.
The moose population in the Isle Royale National Park has exploded in population in recent years and have been wreaking havoc on the vegetation and other animals in the island. This has happened over a period of several years with the canine population has decreased from the island. Now with the intention to try and reduce the moose population, four gray wolves (Canis lupus) originally from Canada, have been airdropped into the park according to iflscience.org. However, reduction of the moose population is not only the quartet's mission. They will be building the foundation of a new wolf population on the 2300-square feet island. A project of wildlife specialists at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF), the quartet of wolves consists of one female wolf and three male wolves. A pair of wolves had been already introduced in the island back in September and the four will join these two very soon. OMNRF said that it hopes to introduce a group of another 14 to 24 wolves sometime over the next three to four years. This particular method of conservation is known as rewilding.
Also one of the reasons for the low wolf population in the island has been climate change. In the past, the Isle Royale national park was connected to the mainland via an ice bridge. Every year for 50 days or more, wolves would and go as they pleased to the island. However now, a situation has arisen where this ice bridge is no longer stable due to climate change. Melting ice has resulted in the bridge not being a very reliable means of crossing over to the island.
As a result of this, the wolf population in the park has considerably decreased over the years. This was quite high during1980 when it was around 50. Since then till now, the numbers have drastically dropped. According to some official estimates, the numbers have dropped to as low as just two wolves in 2016. This has led to the situation where the moose population on the island is the dominant animal in the entire island.
So while the moose population boomed, that of wolves plummeted. This, in turn, has led to a strain on natural resources on the island. Besides the strain on vegetation, large animals have also outcompeted other herbivores for food on the island. Previous population explosions on the island have resulted in thousands of deaths of animals due to starvation since natural resources due to the overpopulation of one species of animals.
While the authors of the project may have exported the wolves on the island, finding the right wolves for the job is a much trickier task. explained John Vucetich, an ecologist from Michigan Technological University who leads Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale project. Speaking with The Guardian, John Vucetich, an ecologist from Michigan Technological University and lead at the Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale project said, "You don’t get to choose the wolf you trap. It could be old, young, or injured when captured."
He further said, " There is also the stress it puts on the animals, who are effectively being dumped in unfamiliar territory with complete strangers for company. They live in families, so imagine what happens to a dog when they’re plunked into a foreign place. They are being introduced to each other. It’s tense and nervous – and it’s tough to find food in a new place. It’s stressful." He also said that the biggest challenge to wolf reintroduction is people.
"People’s attitudes have changed a ton. Our attitudes have changed enough to decide definitively that we want to live with wolves. But we haven’t decided how to live with wolves,” said Vucetich. While wolves are being reintroduced into Isle Royale, the federal government is also mulling putting them under protection under laws of the Endangered Species Act yet again. Gray wolves have been delisted in US states such as Wyoming and were temporarily delisted in the Western Great Lakes area in 2011 before being added again in 2014.
According to reports, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is set to propose a rule to delist the animal, which was added during the 1970s when conflict with agriculturists caused populations to drop. While the FWS says the proposal is an example of "one of our nation's great conservation successes", the Center for Biological Diversity calls it "a death sentence for gray wolves across the country" and plans to take the issue to court.
"I am even more blown away by the resilience of these wolves who within hours after undergoing capture and handling and arriving on Isle Royale, immediately got on the trail of their pack mates. These large males, all around 90 pounds, will almost certainly know what to do when they encounter a moose," said project manager, Mark Romanski, Division Chief of Natural Resources for Isle Royale National Park.