A new report shows wolves on Isle Royale have taken a sudden turn towards extinction. With nine animals counted this winter, the population is the lowest it's ever been in the last half-century. Researchers aren't sure what's caused this latest decline.
Twenty years ago, a disease called Canine Parvovirus reduced the Island's wolf population to twelve. Since then, their numbers have gotten as high as thirty.
Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University has studied wolves and moose on Isle Royale for nearly forty years. He says there's still a chance the animals could rebound."One of their difficulties right now is a shortage of females," Peterson says. "But there is one female that did mate this past month. And the future of the population hinges on what she manages to do."
Peterson recommends that the National Park Service replace the wolves if they die out. He says without them the Island's moose population would explode and eat all the available vegetation.
The Park Service has managed Isle Royale as wildness with a hands-off policy when it comes to intervening with wildlife.