A wildlife researcher suspects Isle Royale National Park may be down to just one wolf. The island used to have a pack of significant population of grey timber wolves, but the population has dwindled to just two in recent years in part because of inbreeding.
Rolf Peterson, a professor at Michigan Tech University, was doing research at the park this summer. He set up cameras to try to record wolves.
"That had been successful in past years at showing us both wolves," Peterson says. "But this year we were only able to get one clip, and it was just one wolf."
Peterson says that assessment is not conclusive.
“He documented one wolf," says Mark Romanski, the chief of natural resources at the park. "It doesn’t mean that there [aren't] two wolves. It just means that he documented one."
Romanski and Peterson say the park – in collaboration with Michigan Tech University – will conduct hundreds of hours of aerial surveys this winter to make the official assessment. They do this every year.
Wolves help keep the park’s growing moose population in check, protecting vegetation from being over-browsed.
The National Park Service has proposed bringing between 20 to 30 new wolves to the park in the next three years. They’re waiting for approval in the coming year.