In March 2017, Wilderness Watch submitted comments supporting Alternative A, “No Action, on the “Draft Environmental Impact Statement to Address the Presence of Wolves” (DEIS) for Isle Royale National Park and Wilderness in Michigan. This would allow wolves to come to and go from the island based on natural migration. The Park Service is also considering different translocation alternatives that would bring wolves to the island from the mainland, though Wilderness Watch does not such such manipulations of the wolf population on Isle Royale.
Wolves are relative newcomers to Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior, having arrived in the late 1940s after crossing a 14-mile ice bridge from Ontario to the Michigan island. They became part of the world’s longest-running and most famous predator-prey study (along with the island’s moose). The wolf population has averaged 25, but this year was down to two. Wolves have come and gone from Isle Royale over the years as ice bridges have permitted. But inbreeding and other factors associated with their isolation have caused the wolf population to steadily decline for many years. In February of 2015, three wolves crossed the ice to Isle Royale, but returned to the mainland after five days, despite the abundant moose population on Isle Royale.
With the wolf population now at only two, many are calling for capturing wolves from the mainland and translocating them to the island, where they are likely to suffer the same “inbred and deformed” future as those currently there. The motivations for exiling the mainland wolves to the island are primarily to continue the predator-prey study and to satisfy tourist desires to see or hear wolves. There is some concern that Isle Royale’s moose population—the wolves’ primary prey—could explode, but moose numbers are declining throughout the upper Midwest to the point they have been proposed for listing as a threatened or endangered species.
The National Park Service is considering four alternatives:
Alternative A: No action. Wolves would come and go based on natural migration.
Alternative B: NPS would engage in a one-time (over three years) translocation of wolves to extend their longevity on the Island.
Alternative C: NPS would translocate wolves as often as needed over the long-term to maintain a wolf population on the Island.
Alternative D: NPS would continue current management of allowing natural processes to control, but could bring wolves to the Island in the future if certain conditions related to prey or vegetation are met.
Ninety-nine percent of Isle Royale’s 134,000 acres is Wilderness and Alternative A is the only one that honors and upholds the area’s wilderness status.
Wilderness Watch works to protect wolves in Wildernesses across the country, including going to federal court several times to protect them from trapping, shooting, and other forms of harassment. We believe that in Wilderness natural processes, not human demands, should determine whether predators stay or go. For this reason, Wilderness Watch strongly supports Alternative A, the no-action alternative, which would honor and preserve the area’s wilderness character while letting the wolves decide if they want to recolonize Isle Royale.
• Read Wilderness Watch's DEIS comments
• Read Wilderness Watch's scoping comments
• For more information and to read a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the wolf translocation issue by Franz Camenzind, PhD, visit: bit.ly/IsleRoyale
Photo: Kevin Proescholdt