Saturday, March 17, 2012

Study- Isle Royale's Gray Wolves Could Soon Become Extinct

A lone wolf in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park in 2006

A recent study has proclaimed that populations of gray wolves in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park have diminished to the point that they could become extinct within a few years. In 1979, the wolves in Isle Royale had reached an all-time high of fifty animals. But now, that figure has reached an all-time low to nine individuals according to a report. Since the 1980s, the wolf populations were reduced dramatically to twelve animals due to a disease outbreak. They have continuously decreased through the 1990s and by 2009, up to 24 individuals were counted. Researchers indicated that the reason behind the decline is lack of females, which caused an increase in inbreeding and shrinkage of the gene pool. In addition to that, the shortage of the wolves' primary food source, the moose, has also caused trouble for the population. Researchers clarified that hunting by humans did not play role in the downfall of the population, since the Isle Royale is a federal wilderness area. Being a small and isolated island, Isle Royale is unique for its relationship between the wolves and moose where wolves are the only predators and moose are almost exclusively their prey. The moose first arrived on the island in the early 1900s, and started to flourish. In the 1940s, wolves entered the island via an ice bridge from Ontario, Canada. This led to the establishment of the predator-prey relationship seen nowhere else in the nation.
Shortage of moose has also contributed to downfall of Isle Royale's wolves

I feel that this is a crucial time to start the reintroduction of wolves in Isle Royale. Most of the remaining animals are the same subspecies living in mainland Michigan, and the neighboring states of Minnesota and Wisconsin where populations range from hundreds to thousands. In addition to that, the province of Ontario itself has good numbers of these wolves in order to help with the reintroduction. This national park is perhaps the only wild place in the U.S where wolves have coexisted with their natural prey without any human encroachment, making it an ideal place for researchers to study the predator-prey relationship. Without their existence, Isle Royale would no longer become a place of study and may loose its status as a national park. This is why it is extremely important to plan reintroductions of wolves from the Great Lakes region, in order to reboost the remaining population. In addition to that, there should also be a focus on reviving the moose numbers on the island through reintroductions. The wolves in Isle Royale are on the brink of extinction, and without any action, they will be gone.

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