A new report says the wolf population on Isle Royale is in dire straits. Researchers could find no evidence in their winter survey that any pups were born last year.
It’s the first time in 40 years that wolves failed to reproduce.
John Vucetich says the small population is so inbred that the remaining eight animals either won’t or can’t produce offspring.
“If they don’t reproduce for example a year from now then their fate is pretty well sealed and they’ll be gone in a short period of time,” Vucetich says. He’s one of the lead researchers from Michigan Technological University.
The situation raises a tricky question for the federally managed wilderness park in Lake Superior. Should managers keep hands-off and let nature take its course or should they intervene by putting more wolves on the island?
Vucetich thinks that without the predators there, the growing moose population would soon strip Isle Royale of vegetation. “As long as there are moose on Isle Royale, then wolves have a place there too. Wolves are pretty critical for ecosystem health,” he says.
Started in 1958, the research on Isle Royale is the longest running predator-prey study in the world.