In an op-ed published in the New York Times yesterday, researchers from Michigan Technological University and Oregon State University advocated for the genetic rescue of the island’s wolf population:

As the lead researchers in the study of wolves and moose, we favor conservation or reintroduction. But more important than our view is the reasoning behind it. Wilderness is conventionally viewed as a place where nature should be allowed to take its course, free of human interference. This is essentially the principle of nonintervention that has guided America’s relationship with wilderness areas for roughly 50 years…The principle of nonintervention touches on fundamental conservation wisdom. But we find ourselves in a world where the welfare of humans and the biosphere faces considerable threats — climate change, invasive species and altered biogeochemical cycles, to name a few. Where no place on the planet is untouched by humans, faith in nonintervention makes little sense. We have already altered nature’s course everywhere. Our future relationship with nature will be more complicated. Stepping in will sometimes be wise, but not always. Navigating that complexity without hubris will be a great challenge (emphasis mine).

New York Times, op-ed: Predator and Prey, a Delicate Dance

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About The Author

Jeremy Bruskotter

Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter is an associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the Ohio State University where his research interests are centered around the human dimensions” of wildlife conservation and management. Jeremy is passionate about wildlife–at one time or another, he has called himself hunter, angler, and wildlife photographer. Most of all, Jeremy is concerned with bringing the tools and techniques of the social sciences to bear on pressing issues in wildlife management.

66 Responses to Isle Royale researchers advocate for ‘genetic rescue’ of island wolves

  1. avatar Mark L says:

    Not allowing the wolves of Isle Royale to die off through a natural, non-interventionist path is a travesty. Let them be and let us all see what really happens in nature more or less untouched by our fingers. You can always add more afterwards.

  2. avatar Immer Treue says:

    I began this in Have you… And Ida had a number of comments also, but so as not to be buried:

    I’ve brought this up before, but with ~270 wolves in MN removed for depredations, I would presume
    Most trapped and then shot, take a couple good males three or four good females, and release them
    on Isle Royale. New wolves, new genes, observe. Not so much a penal colony, but a redemption island. Don’t see how it could hurt.

    Also, in regard to Isle Royale, if past trends were to continue, in the absence of wolves, or when the wolf population was suppressed, the moose population sky rocketed and they outstripped their food supply, result, mass starvation.

    Some say, no wolves, allow hunting. But is that not intervention. So few places where man doesn’t leave an indelible foot print with his presence. Here is a chance to “help” nature out a bit.

    No livestock, pets, or bus stops. Other than researchers, no one there for half the year.

    REPLY

  3. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Well, that’s just it – there is no such thing anymore as a natural, non-interventionist path. There used to be a way for the wolves to cross to and from the island and invigorate their genetics, but climate change or another probable consequence from human activity has prohibited that. Maybe make it a little easier for them by creating a ‘land bridge’ non unlike how wolves first came to the New World (or was it that they came from the New World to the old?)

    It would seem the perfect solution to ‘problem wolves’ to bring a few to Isle Royale. To me, it is cruel to both wolves and moose to just stand back and do nothing, yet to ‘manage’ wolves and ungulates in other parts of the country. Letting them eventually die out fits in with this ultimate goal of human ‘management’ of them, I suppose.

    • avatar Mark L says:

      I do see your point. I guess what I have a problem with also is that some see these wolves as ‘special’ or even ‘more special’ than the other wolves that inhabit the area. They are really one in the same (aren’t they?). I think the coddling that we have done for so many of our pet projects tends to buffer how things really are in nature….but the whole process is so unnatural now…even the amount of wolves that could cross during a freeze is affected by us (on purpose)on point Isle Royale. I’d hate to think we see wolves as belonging on a ‘reservation’…especially in Michigan.

      • avatar Immer Treue says:

        Mark,

        What’s the alternative? If wolves are gone, what will happen to the 2500 to 3000 moose that will follow? One will be able to smell IR if down wind once starvation sets in. HUNT?

        • avatar Mark L says:

          My feeling (and it’s only that) is to just let them starve, unfortunately. They (wolves) made it once (or more), they may make it again.

      • avatar JB says:

        From a scientific perspective, this seems like a great opportunity to study how the loss of wolves impacts island ecology (including moose populations). If wolves were left to go extinct, moose and island ecology could be monitored for a time, and–if wolves didn’t make it across on their own–new animals could be reintroduced.

        On the other hand, if you believe we have a responsibility to promote native is NPs and wilderness areas (not just leave them be), then you might argue that we have an ethical obligation to rescue moose from themselves?

        I honestly don’t know where I stand on the issue.

        • avatar JB says:

          Sorry, should be: “…to promote native species in NPs and wilderness areas…”

          • I tend to come down mainly on the side of scientific interest in this case, so agree with JB. It would be a great chance to observe the process in reverse with more intensified and modern scientific methods. I don’t necessarily see a wolf-less state going on forever, however, and the decision to reintroduce wolves could be made at some future date to return the island to a more complete functional ecosystem.

            On the other hand, it might be argued that there may be some offsetting scientific value in observing the genetic rescue of a very small inbred population.

            In either case, given its isolation and natural laboratory status, I tend to put the scientific value ahead of economic/social interests, i.e. maintaining the extra tourism draw of a wolf presence or establishing another moose hunting destination (which might arguably be the most “humane” option but would contribute very little scientifically over what is known about managed moose populations in areas with few natural predators from Sweden to Colorado).

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          It would seem that we have much knowledge about what happens when wolves go extinct from The Great American Kill-Off. How much more information do we need to know that it is unethical. After that artificial imbalance that was created by us, I think we are obliged to try to fix what we can.

        • avatar jdubya says:

          I agree.

          This is similar to the studies that go back and forth on the aspens and willows in Yellowstone being rescued by wolves messing with the elk. Except on the island the variables are far far fewer.

          Will bird diversity go up or down with the loss of wolves, will willows and other foods for elk get slammed, raising stream water temperatures and increasing sediment?

          The list could go on and on……let’s do the experiment!

          • avatar Ida Lupine says:

            I’m glad the world is ours to do with as we wish. Not.

            We have enough microcosms to study – we’ll soon have the Great Yellowstone Area again to do a remedial study if things continue on as they are. Honestly, I don’t know who is worse, the scientists or the killers.

            • avatar Ida Lupine says:

              You both have a terrible tendency to objectify.

            • avatar JB says:

              “The Great American Kill-Off. How much more information do we need to know that it is unethical.” [and] Honestly, I don’t know who is worse, the scientists or the killers.”

              Ouch! So anyone who advocates ‘letting nature take its course’ gets compared with a killer? A bit harsh, don’t you think? I respect the fact that you feel obligated to rescue this population, but it seems many of us see a substantive ‘gray area’ here regarding what should be done. The authors of the piece themselves acknowledge this. If you’re going to compare those you disagree with with killers, at least have the courtesy to ‘show your work’–ie., tell us why the position we advocate is ethically irresponsible.

              • avatar Ida Lupine says:

                No. I didn’t say that. I said we should have a wealth of knowledge from it. The authors acknowledge the grey area, but feel that the population should be assisted.

                Yes, I tend to be harsh because there’s so few of certain wildlife and so many of us. Our delicate feelings will recover. The animals, however, will not.

              • avatar JB says:

                ” Our delicate feelings will recover. The animals, however, will not.”

                Except the link you just posted (below), suggests they might! And without our intervention.

                “I am aghast that we seriously believe we can tailor nature to our will…”

                Which is ‘tailoring nature to our will’, purposeful genetic rescue of the population, or allowing it to possibly go extinct due, at least in some part, to our pervasive effects on climate? Seems we ‘play God’ either way?

          • avatar Immer Treue says:

            Jdubya,

            Balsam will be browsed either down to nothing, or as high as a moose can reach. A tough Winter will come in and moose will starve by the 100’s if not 1,000’s. If fire hits, it will exacerbate the process.

            It’s all been documented in the Durwood Allen’s “The Wolves of Minong”,the books by Mech and Peterson, and the fifty odd years of studies on Isle Royale. Can aberrations to the expected occur? Certainly. But likely? Not really.

            • avatar JB says:

              Immer:

              Your post seems to suggest there isn’t much to be learned. Yet the overarching lesson from Isle Royale (if there is one) is that despite our best efforts, we lack the ability to make accurate predications about what will happen on Isle Royale.

              To use Dr. Vucetich’s words:

              “For 50 years, the focused purpose of the Isle Royale wolf moose project has been to predict and better understand a relatively simple natural system. But the more we studied, the more we came to realize how poor our previous explanations had been. The accuracy of our predictions for Isle Royale wolf and moose populations is
              comparable to those for long term weather and financial markets. Every five year period in the Isle Royale history has been different from very other five year period…The most important events in the history of Isle Royale wolves and moose have been essentially unpredictable events
              – disease, tick outbreaks, hot summers and severe winters.

              Don’t misunderstand–it’s not as though nothing has been learned. Much insight has been gained, for example, about wolves’ tendency to kill moose that are likely to die from other causes, the effect of climate and forest processes on animal populations, and even the role of ravens in shaping the distinctive social nature of wolves. The lessons we learn seem to come more from explaining the past rather than predicting the future.”

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                JB,

                When analysis paralysis takes over nothing gets done. Odd that except for the anti-wolf folks, nobody wants to see the Isle Royale wolves die out.

                100’s of MN wolves have been paying the price with their Lives simply looking for food. Spare a few, and as SEAK suggested, bring them in for a real experiment in regard to an influx of new genes, with possible practical apicatioms to other island populations of animals. IR has been less of an experiment, and more of an observational workshop. No wolves, its pretty predictable what will happen. Want a real experiment, with hypothesis and possible outcomes with possible practical applications, bring in some new wolf genes. Humans have already stamped their impact on IR by spreading Parvo virus.

                I’m with you on this Ida, man’s footprint is omni present, why not have a few places where man can, perhaps with a gentle nudge, allow a natural place to recover.

                Or analyze, paralyze and do nothing.

              • avatar JB says:

                Immer:

                I respect your position, but I reject the idea that “analysis paralysis” is necessarily the result of a detailed analysis of the arguments in favor/against the available options. What interests me in this conversation isn’t so much the position people take, but the arguments/logic used to defend those positions. By what principles do people reason when making such decisions. For my own part, I believe the potential knowledge gained by intervention outweighs arguments for non-intervention; but I tend to lean toward letting the natural experiment play out before we get involved. The intervention is the same in either case–it is simply a matter of timing. For me, what decision is the “right” (i.e., ethical) decision is largely unclear; thus, I would advocate choosing the option that provides the most information for future conservation. Ida can condemn me as unprincipled, but until she shows her math, I think this logic is as good as any.

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                JB,

                I agree that there are two ways to go, 1) let the wolves die out. Had a conversation with Vucetich at a wolf symposium 12-13 years ago. Wolves were struggling in numbers. Asked him what he would predict about the wolves, and he said, ” they’re doomed”. To use a phrase from “Platoon” “We all have to die sometime Red”. Yes the wolves will die and the moose will continue to go on boom and bust cycles. Perhaps it’s best to let the wolves die out, and therefore remove the recessive genes responsible for the spinal deformations etal. start anew with new wolves, knowing new genes MUST be infused into the population periodically.

                2. Bring in wolves ASAP.

                3. Get rid of the moose and return it to woodland caribou.

  4. avatar ZeeWolf says:

    JB – This seems like a classic case of “dam*ed if you do, dam*ed if you don’t”. I must admit to a serious case of “fence sitting” on this specific issue and also do not have a clear position to take.

    I like that the authors are hesitant to meddle in wilderness areas, following the percieved spirit of the Wilderness Act of 1964, and further acknowledge the inherent contradiction of restoring or enhancing a population that seems to being going locally extinct due to circumstances not human induced. I will point out, however, that there are plenty of wilderness areas that are meddled with in one way or another throughout the country. While not many people would complain about trail building and maintainence in wilderness areas they are clearly a form of meddling. Likewise, here in Colorado anyhow, some of the compremises that led to further additions to the Wilderness System in the early ’90’s allowed the continued legislatively defined grazing of cattle within the wilderness areas complete with all the ills that are inherent with those beasts. Since we are already meddling with wilderness areas, then why not enhance the current Isle Royale wolf population for all the valid reasons the authors stated?

    The flip side of that coin is that I have always been one who prefers nature to take its own course. Letting wolves die off on Isle Royale would be an experiment on its own and allow those concerned with such events to have an excellent field laboratory.

    There is also something I have never quite understood; what was the habitat like before Moose swam over to the island? Could these moose be considered an invasive species for the Isle Royale ecosystem? I mean, the entire wolf-moose ecosystem currently in place could be abnormal in the history of Isle Royale’s ecology. Is there any geologic history that suggests prior to the twentieth century there were wolves or moose on the island? If wolves are not able to sustain genetic diversity necessary for longterm survival on Isle Royale, then isn’t thier presence with human assistance just as unjustifyably meddlesome as thier human caused extirpation elsewhere? My support for wolf restoration in Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere was largely based on the premise that wolves would have still been in those areas had not people eradicated them in the first place.

    The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to let nature take its course. If the wolves go extinct and the situation with moose overpopulation becomes untenable then wolves could be reintroduced at a later date. The future reintroduction could also be a great experiment in that researchers would know how many wolves were released. I think that much could then be learned, in another fifty to hundred years, if those wolves also encountered a genetic “bottleneck”, or not. Perhaps the lesson learned would be that wolves need more than 134,000 acres to survive inbreeding, or perhaps that same area is adequate if enough genetic diversity is provided for from the very beginning.

    I meant that last paragraph to be my final on this post, but just want to clarify that it is doubtful that I would oppose a reintroduction or enhancement program as I see the benefits to that as well.

    • The question of moose on Isle Royale being considered exotic and whether they are sustainable with or without wolves for any extended period an interesting one. In the extensive archipelago in Southeast Alaska, we have a tremendous number of similar laboratories, although there has been much less detailed study. The ungulate here is the Sitka black-tailed deer, with predators being some combination of either or both bears and wolves, or none (plus varying levels of predation by humans). In the 1960s, a study was conducted on seldom-visited Coronation Island, off the outer coast. Deer occasionally swim out there and the island was severely over-browsed by nutritionally stressed deer. As an experiment, four wolves were introduced. A former biologist described to me visiting the island before the introduction, saying the browse line was extreme with virtually no understory and the deer were quite small, but there were several hundred of them. The wolves increased to a peak of about 13 animals and basically eliminated the deer population in short order, followed by a period when wolf remains were present in wolf scat. When the deer were essentially gone, only one male wolf remained and he was able to catch a few seals at a haul-out and also dug clams. By then, there was tremendous improvement underway in the plant community. However, today the wolves are gone, more deer swam out and the island is back in its earlier over-populated and over-browsed state. The island is under the average territory size of wolf packs that have been studied on other islands, so perhaps wolf density increased above what it would have in a more territorial situation. The reduction in deer happened so quickly that, despite presence of good escape terrain, the improvement in the plant community and thus the deer’s physical condition and ability to escape wolves occurred too slowly to save the deer initially, but they were able to re-colonize at some point after their predator was gone.

      There are very healthy Sitka blacktail populations on two types of larger islands in the region, the large northern ABC islands that have only brown bears and no wolves and the islands south of Sumner Strait that have a dense black bear population and wolves. On the former, snowfall is the key element preventing deer over-population whereas it is predation on the southern islands that have little snow. The intermediate belt of islands around Petersburg has the same black bear and wolf predator community as to the south but the high snowfall of the north, and deer densities there are far lower — too many population controls. At the other extreme, farther south is Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) that is large with little snowfall, but with only black bears (no wolves). Sitka blacktails were introduced there in the 1920s and are considered to have been an ecological disaster (whereas the same species is a key part of a balanced ecosystem on similar islands within sight to the north) — to the point where there has even been discussion of introducing wolves, although so far remaining an intractably controversial topic.

      There are many smaller islands in southern Southeast on which wolves and deer play a never ending game of cat and mouse. Deer swim to a little island and thrive there for awhile, and eventually wolves swim on and hunt the deer, and the surviving deer flee elsewhere to other small islands (often pushed into the water by wolves which are inferior swimmers). These islands also tend to be shelters from the other major predator, the black bear, which concentrates on neo-natal fawns. There is a certain size at which an island does not offer long-term sustainability for both wolf and prey. Partial isolation can have a positive overall population influence under adverse environmental conditions, by offering temporary predation shelters and varying forage cycles. It sounds like Isle Royale is too isolated (at least under recent climate conditions) and not quite large enough. It may never be long-term sustainable without occasional intervention, and like Coronation Island, may revert to a situation in which its prominant ungulate is controlled by (and controls) its food supply.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        Seak,

        Thank you again for your observations from Alaska (about things that would otherwise never be reported).

      • avatar JEFF E says:

        I have read some of the Coronation Island issue, quite some time ago, during a period that there was quite a bit of blather from the haters about wolves destroying there prey base and throwing Coronation out as an example.

        Correct me if I am wrong but this would be an example of where all of the cyclical components of predator/prey relationships were not present, as in adequate territory for the prey species, when there are predators on the landscape, and/or the prey species not better equipped to withstand an encounter given the habitat limitations. I would think that the survival strategy difference between a comparatively small animal such as a deer and a Moose would be to flee for the deer, and to find a superior defensive position for the moose, where possible and “stand your ground”, and much more capable to inflict significant damage on the predator as compared to the deer.

        It is pretty obvious that the area of Coronation Island is obviously inadequate for any type of multi predator/prey ecosystem and in retrospect makes the haters argument of comparing that island with another such as Island Royal, even more ludicrous than normal.

        • Jeff E –

          I think you are correct that the Coronation Island example is not representative of what might happen in other areas and with other species, but what is? Every situation seems somewhat unique.

          I became very interested in wolves and black-tailed deer about 15 years ago when I began seeing wolf sign and hearing reports on the island where I live and hunt, the most intensively hunted island in SE Alaska because of its close proximity to Juneau, which has about half of the region’s population. The island supports a relatively stable harvest averaging 300 to 400 deer annually (of which I have typically accounted for 4) by 800 hunters on a total area of about 50,000 acres over a 5 month season. In trying to figure the long-term implications of wolf colonization, two examples that raised some alarm were Coronation Island (small island, although only about 40% the size of this one) and central islands like Kuiu, Kupreanof and Mitkof in central Southeast where deer went from being extremely abundant (even more so than on the northern wolf-free islands — owing to pre-statehood liberal dispersal of strychnine-laced seal meat by aircraft) to extremely low numbers after the severe winter of 1968-1969. The deer season on the island where Petersburg is located (Mitkof) was entirely closed for 18 years (to an entire generation of kids) and remains only 2 weeks long with a limit of one buck. The initial impression seemed to be that small islands might not be sustainable with wolves and deer while areas with combined high snowfall and wolves (plus black bears) may fall into a long-term predator pit. Both factors were of concern relative to this island. The other piece of information that caught our attention was the estimate of deer consumption from Prince of Wales island of 26 deer annually per wolf, and the question of how many wolves the deer population on a small island could support with a hunter take already in the hundreds.

          The single set of wolf prints became a pair and the following spring a family of 7 wolves that were seen by a lot of people (kayakers, tour boat tourists and hikers). That winter they were discovered by a trapper and all caught in short order, resulting in sustained outrage and establishment of a wolf advocacy group that managed to get both wolf hunting and trapping closed. However, the political dynamics changed considerably within a year or so, with a new governor appointing a pro-predator control Board of Game that was interested in enforcing the recently passed Intensive Management Law (which established human consumptive use as the highest priority for certain moose, caribou and deer populations – of which this is listed as one). So the pro-wolf people, who were much better organized than us “concerned deer hunters” (not “haters”), then had some incentive to negotiate — and we did manage to negotiate a management plan that recognized biological and fiscal (information) constraints and aimed to protect some wolf presence as long as the deer population holds up. It was passed unanimously by the Board of Game with stated support from groups that generally agree on almost nothing, including the Defenders of Wildlife, the Alaska Outdoor Council and the Territorial Sportsmen.

          Since that time, and more so in the past couple of years, there has again been persistent wolf sign and sightings of an individual(s) on the island. I have begun to believe that a permanent wolf presence at a level that would seriously take down the deer population is unlikely, despite evidence from central Southeast that wolves and deep snow are not a favorable combination. Beyond, the question of wolves and snow is the one of ecological diversity, and this island has relatively low diversity, which seems to work in favor of sustaining deer. Black bears are a major factor in deer mortality, but limited salmon runs and lowland alluvial and riparian habitat seems to keep their numbers low to moderate here, although there are a few real whoppers. At the same time, there is limited other food than deer to support wolves, including very few beavers (A couple of years ago, a deer hunter mentioned seeing a wolf running up the creek from the estuary 1/4 mile east of my house with a duck flapping in its jaws, so their resourcefulness at finding non-ungulate food should not be underestimated). Relatively high snowfall and heavy hunting pressure (particularly when deer abundance is high) limit deer density well below range capacity and keeps them pretty wary with few animals in poor condition (unlike on over-browsed Coronation). While about 85% of a wolf’s diet on southern islands is deer, the other 15% may be very important to survival but harder to come by on a less diverse island. I suspect that if the deer population began to seriously falter, wolves would have a tough time feeding themselves during particular times of year and would simply leave the island for the mainland only a mile away — as individuals have probably quietly come and gone intermittently for many decades, but only once to my knowledge have established a visible pack.

          The opposite case in terms of ecological diversity is Kuiu Island west of Kake that has been in a severe predator pit for decades. It has diverse salmon runs and one of the densest black bear populations found anywhere (4 to 5 bears per square mile averaged over the entire island). Despite few deer, it has lots of wolves that are commonly seen fishing on salmon streams in the summer. They kill and eat significant numbers of black bears, and there are also beavers on the island and abundant marine and intertidal food resources. Another central Southeast island (Zarembo) has likely a couple of wolf packs but few black bears and relatively low ecological diversity, and has remained a major deer bread basket for that part of the region, particularly for the community of Wrangell (even as deer have fallen to very low levels on neighboring islands). Local community support and USFS economic analysis has tended to protect from industrial clear-cut logging some of the less diverse locations that are key to subsistence deer use, with the unfortunate trade-off being some more interesting, ecologically rich places like Kuiu Island that produce almost no deer harvest.

          Anyway, that’s my impression at this point — but I’m always looking for variations in the picture and additional pieces of the puzzle.

  5. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    http://isleroyalewolf.org/node/40

    How did this guy get there? Continue to observe, you never know what will happen. I am aghast that we seriously believe we can tailor nature to our will, and that hunting is a humane option – but always take heart when nature shows us that can’t and how little we actually do know. :)

    • avatar ZeeWolf says:

      I enjoyed the article and added it to my “favorites”. Thanks for the heads up!

      I am more for leaving the wolf population to go its own way; I would not stand in the way of enhancing the wolf population if that is how it went down, but I would actively oppose any type of moose hunt on Isle Royale.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        These posts a lot of the time are for my own enlightenment and I share them, and probably are not new info to many of you all! :) Obviously I’m not a biologist but I very much do care about wildlife and the environment.

        I would oppose hunting also because it isn’t a natural selection, and especially in a case like this. I do follow what’s going on on Isle Royale – I think someone shared the information here initially?

        Have a good evening, everyone -

  6. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    I just question subjecting wolves to spinal deformities and moose to potential starvation so that we can gain knowledge. It’s cruel. Isle Royale is not just a laboratory for human to observe, it is a living environment. It very well may be meddlesome to interfere, but in a positive way, especially if it doesn’t hurt any of the other organisms but helps them. Extirpation only damages the species and everything else associated with it.

  7. avatar Robert R says:

    I just have to wonder if scientist and bioligist really know what’s best?
    As much as some despise hunting?

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      Robert,

      You just opened the door for a shit storm. Your comment makes as much sense as one of Mike’s

      • avatar Robert R says:

        Immer its because sometimes even good science and biology sometimes backfires where the writing was already on the wall, the obvious happens whether some are willing to admit it.
        My comment may makes no sense to you, but maybe you should read between the lines.
        Nothing is foolproof or 100% is it.

        • avatar Immer Treue says:

          Robert,

          This part of comment has merit, but remember that there exist biologist/scientists that may be perceived as anti-wolf biased, if I can safely assume this is directed more at Peterson and Vucetich.

          I just have to wonder if scientist and
          bioligist really know what’s best?

          This one is a Mikedom comment that adds nothing to the topic/discussion.

          As much as some despise hunting?

  8. avatar ma'iingan says:

    I’ve spoken with the IR researchers a couple of times on this topic, and Dr. Vucetich’s comment that the wolves are doomed has been apparent for some time – it seems to me every model ever run has predicted their extinction, just at different times.

    If we repopulate the island with wolves, the same scenario we’re observing is likely to play out over some number of decades – an extreme genetic bottleneck that will again likely cause genetic abnormalities in the wolves.

    Or would we keep refreshing the population every couple of decades?

    • avatar Harley says:

      Ma,
      You pose a very relevant question. Would this be something we would just keep re populating every couple of decades?

  9. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Now wait a minute – I wasn’t singling you out personally, JB. And I don’t know if ‘unprincipled’ is the word I’d use. I’m sure there are many principled scientists and hunters.

    But maybe a quality we all share is single-mined focus on a goal, sometimes to detriment because we refuse to acknowledge any obstacles to that goal. Humans have sometimes compromised even human welfare in the name of scientific research, were it not for laws enacted to protect research subjects who may or may not be able to speak for themselves.

    And who’s to say that our conservative friends in power right now would allow wolves to be reintroduced to Isle Royale, at the rate we’re going, if they do die out? Once it’s done, it might be done forever.

    • avatar Mark L says:

      Forever? Nah, not a chance. Wolves (and apparently some forward looking people) are way to fortunate in circumstance for that to happen, despite the opposition. In the meantime, its just another struggle, like any other. Eyes on the prize.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        Ok. I’ll try to focus on that.

        And now I really am going. Have a good night everyone!

  10. avatar Jeff says:

    I’m curious about the genetic health of the moose herd. How many originally colonized the island? Have any studies been done on the moose health? Minnesota’s moose population has been crashing is this being seen in the UP or other areas close to IR?

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      I’m curious about the genetic health of the moose herd. How many originally colonized the island?

      Good question. Moose have been observed in Lake Superior swimming toward Isle Royle. It’s not known, however, if the moose came from the mainland, or were swimming away from IR, turned around and came back.

  11. avatar ZeeWolf says:

    http://biology.williams.edu/files/2011/09/Edwards-Packera-insulae-regalis-BRITTONIA-2011-1.pdf

    I did some snooping trying to answer a question I posed to myself. How would I feel towards an irruption of moose after localized wolf extinction if there was an endemic species of plant on Isle Royale and that plant could be made to go extinct from overbrowsing? The authors don’t discuss threats to the plant and I wonder if the wolf-moose dynamic on Isle Royale ever crossed their minds.

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    State governments and resident hunters/trappers have been wantonly brutal and …
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/THE-MAGNIFICENT-WOLF/129521537076373 – 781k – Cached – Similar Pages
    O.K. guys Staten Island has not had dear since the first 60 years settlers landed here. Wiped them out, but now Staten Island has dear. How do you think they got here. They swam here from New Jersey, SO WHY DON’T THEY LEAVE THE wolves alone on the Island, they will survive. Plus read the article somebody gave me how wolves defied the ice age. Great article you written Jerry, if I might call you Jerry.

  13. avatar Immer Treue says:

    While we are on the Isle Royale topic, I’ve always appreciated this age breakdown of moose killed by wolves over a sixteen year period.

    While wolves prey most heavily on old adults, significant variations in predation patterns over a 16-year period have occurred (Appendix L). Variations in the age distribution of the kill may reflect relative abundance of animals in the older age group and, more recently, increased vulnerability among young adults.

    The general pattern. The known wolf kills and probable wolf kills were combined to provide a generalized picture of vulnerability according to age. The relative frequency of kills in each age group was compared to the hypothetical occurrence of each age group in the population (calculated from the life table) to illustrate the differential vulnerability of young and old adults (Table 27).

    TABLE 27. Age-distribution of 307 wolf-killed adult moose compared to hypothetical occurrence in the Isle Royale moose herd.

    Age (years) Wolf-kill samplea
    Calculated occurrence
    in moose herd (%)b
    No. %
    1-2 30 9.8 13.1
    2-3 17 5.5 12.2
    3-4 17 5.5 11.4
    4-5 6 2.0 10.8
    5-6 9 2.9 10.2
    6-7 21 6.8 9.3
    7-8 23 7.5 8.3
    8-9 26 8.5 7.1
    9-10 26 8.5 5.8
    10-11 31 10.1 4.5
    11-12 28 9.1 3.2
    12-13 31 10.1 2.0
    13-14 23 7.5 1.1
    14-15 10 3.3 0.5
    15-16 6 2.0 0.2
    16-17 2 0.7 0.1
    17-18 1 0.3 0.1
    18-19 0 — —
    19-20 1
    0.3 —
    Total 307

    aIncludes known wolf kills and probable wolf kills collected during present and previous studies 1958-74.
    bCalculated from life table (Table 35) (cf. Deevey 1947).
    The marked selectivity of wolf predation is readily apparent (Fig. 89). Mortality, relatively low from age 1 to 5 years, increases after 6 years. After 8 years, the percent occurrence in the kill is greater than the calculated percent occurrence in the population.

    • avatar Robert R says:

      Immer this says a lot because it has been said that age base of elk that are preyed on heavier is older and there is not as high of cow to calf ratio.
      I will tell you that during the elk rut that the elk are not as vocal as they were before the wolf populated. Why advertise where I’m at to be killed,

      • avatar Immer Treue says:

        Yes,

        It pretty much says good luck that first couple of years, and you won’t die of old age if you are a moose. Not to say wolves don’t take healthy adults, but as a % of the particular age cohort, it’s the young and old.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          Not unusual – but how does an island environment contribute – more or less than a larger environment? I’m curious to know if the spinal deformities affect the wolves’ mobility and hunting success.

  14. avatar WM says:

    Genetic rescue of IR wolves seems a good course. The case for intervention is compelling. It seems a preferred one to letting the small wolf population slide slowly into extinction from whatever deformities and maladies result from no new genes, and moose over-crowding the island, with attendant changes to vegetation and a likely crash of the moose population from starvation. The latter would be to allow nature to work mostly on its own – important aspects for purists of wilderness, NP’s and our legislative addiction to preservation (for good or for bad).

    However, I do wish to point out Vucetich/Peterson for their lack of candor in this article, on one particular and important point. In addition to continuing the scientific studies here in a mostly closed ecosystem, they have a huge vested interest in continuing the research here – their jobs, and as a funding source for Michigan Tech and future students/scientists. This is not at all disclosed in the article, though it is treated nominally in a linked reference. Important enough, IMHO, for at least a sentence of disclosure, including costs of the program.

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      WM,

      I believe cost of program is all but public contribution. I could be wrong, but I think there is little to no tax $ involved.

      • avatar WM says:

        Immer,

        The article referenced within the NY Times article, (http://isleroyalewolf.org/sites/default/files/tech_pubs_files/Vucetich%20et%20al%202012%20GW%20Forum.pdf End Note 11 ) Shows government funding sources. Specifically, it mentions National Park Service (federal tax dollars), National Science Foundation (which is a federal government agency), Mich. Tech (publicly funded state school). Additionally, I think there is a statement within the paper saying it would be difficult to to “compete for grants” without the wolf component. I gather this refers to the aforementioned granting organizations, as well as others which may be publicly funded.

        So, again there is considerable self-interest at stake, not that I find it objectionable. I think this is valuable research.

  15. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    I’d prefer this type of ‘self-interest’ to the kind we have now which destroys wildlife.

  16. avatar Snaildarter says:

    I’m for genetic rescue humans have screwed up the plant so much its hard to say if fragmented populations should ever be allowed to go extinct. I say error on the side of preserving wildlife when ever possible.
    Global warming could have limited wolf access to the Island. Beleaguered wolf populations on the mainland is another.

  17. avatar Richie G. says:

    Washington: A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, s…
    only this about the wolf

    See More

  18. avatar Richie G. says:

    Sorry JB did not get the full article if you come back to this I had the article it did not take ?

  19. avatar Richie G. says:

    http://news.ucsc.edu/2013/05/mammoth-steppe.html
    Sorry JB here is the study under Santa Cruz University why wolves made it past the big predators.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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