Should there be genetic rescue (outside wolves brought in)-

For many years the wolves and moose of Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior have shown that wolves do not wipe out their prey. When wolves become abundant enough that the disappearance of prey seems probable, the wolves die back.

On the other hand, when wolves have declined to few in number, the moose population expands and begins to decimate its prey — the moose-edible vegetation of the island.

This rough balance has existed ever since wolves colonized the island one hard winter. In 1949 a pair of wolves walked over to the island on the frozen lake. The pair found an island overrun with moose. The moose themselves had migrated to the island 40 years earlier.

The wolf population expanded, of course, and brought the moose number in check (and more). Then the wolves began to starve off and the cycle began.

The moose prefer aspen, and they do well eating it. However, they mostly wiped that out before the wolves came.  Ever since, they have relied primarily on the less nutritious balsam fir and lichens.

Both the moose and the wolves are also subject to inbreeding. It is especially a problem for the wolves, all of which descended from the original pair. So, in addition to the cyclic malnutrition when the moose population drops too low, the wolves have been seen to suffer from increasing genetic defects. One of these is poor reproduction even when there is enough food.

Down to just 8 wolves, they seem doomed without outside genes from new wolves. There have been up to 50 wolves at a time on the island, although many scientists think a stable number is about 25. It should be noted that there have always been wide fluctuations around this “mean.” The eight wolves seem to have gained a brief reprieve with the birth of 2 or 3 pups in 2013 after several years with none. Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the unaugmented population can survive much longer. It is less and less likely that the lake will freeze and wolves from Minnesota, Michigan or Wisconsin find their way to the island.

The wolves and their relationship to the moose and the vegetation have been studied since 1958. Dr. Rolf Peterson, in particular, is the person most closely associated with the studies. He would like to see some genetic rescue. Dr. Dave Mech, however, who is another avid student of the island’s wolves is reported to want to first let natural events play out.

With the wolf population so low, we would now expect the moose population to be expanding. It is. However, it is increasingly suffering from tick infestation. This is a problem for moose in general during winters, but Isle Royale has seen warmer winters as the climate changes. This makes the effects of the bloodsucking  arachnids more severe.

Rolf Peterson recently sent out the following letter.

The National Park Service is interested to receive your input on the pending decision regarding the future management of wolves on Isle Royale.  Please send your input to the following email address: (note the “underscore” between ISRO and Wildlife)

The Park Service is considering three options:  (1) do nothing, even if wolves go extinct; (2) allow wolves to go extinct (if that is what they do), and then introduce a new wolf population; or (3) conserve Isle Royale wolves with an action known as genetic rescue by bringing some wolves to the island to mitigate inbreeding.

While expressing your view, consider providing as much detail on the reasons for your preference, as the Park Service believes the reasons for your view are as important as your view.  If you have any questions on the process or anything relating to providing input, please do not hesitate to ask me.


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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

120 Responses to Should the declining inbred wolves of Isle Royale N.P. be augmented?

  1. Sheryl says:

    If there were a healthy wolf population outside of the island that might migrate onto the island I would say leave everything alone. But since there is little hope of a new gene pool naturally arriving onto the island I would say to introduce a new one.

  2. Jon Way says:

    I am torn between #2 or #3. It would be very interesting to see how long the population can hold on (#3) but I would only support that if there was an immediate plan to reintroduce wolves immediately after they go extinct (if they did). If they didn’t have an immediate plan I would favor genetic rescue in the very near future… #1 doesn’t seem valid to me in a human dominate world.

  3. Jon Way says:

    Sorry, after:

    #1 doesn’t seem valid to me in a human dominate world.

    I should add: Because human actions (thru development and climate change reducing freeze up) will likely prevent recolonization of wolves…

  4. Ida Lupine says:

    I vote for genetic rescue. I believe there was a time when the wolves would traverse freely back and forth from the island, but due to human-caused changes to the lake this is no longer easily done for them? In this case, where everything on the planet has been touched by human activity, we have an obligation to protect other life and to make up for how we may have negatively impacted them.

    It’s hard to know in the present day what has changed naturally and what has been accelerated due to human activity.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      I’ve wondered if we can build a sand bar or bridge of some kind to try and recreate the ice bridge the wolves once used to get to the island to help them move freely and naturally back and forth again? The island is one place where they wouldn’t pose a threat (real or imagined) to livestock or people.

      • Ralph Maughan says:

        Even if Lake Superior froze allowing migration, it is not likely (I think) that wolves will see the distant islands and head there when there are plenty of deer to eat on-shore.

        Then after a short time, the lake will thaw.

      • Barb Rupers says:

        If built on USA soil the sand bar would have to be about 20 miles long and would not be stable in Lake Superior and need a lot of sand. It is closer to Canada than to the USA especially its state of Michigan, about 45 miles south.

    • ramses09 says:

      Good insight & I totally agree with Ida.

  5. Pedro says:

    I would look at the population as a whole see whether there is a population inbalence. Introduce a couple of the lower sex amount. eg if there are less males introduce a couple of males.
    This should save the population maybe in a couple of years do the same thing again..

  6. Barb Rupers says:

    Are the current genetic problems with the wolves going to be abated by bringing in new genes? Or would a new start altogether be more effective?

    If either of these plans is implemented it seems that the addition of a few different wolves periodically could prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

    I tend to think of dynamic ecosystems more as a teeter-totter, with ups and downs for the various populations, than a static balance.

  7. Immer Treue says:

    Repopulation with wolves trapped for depredation in MN rather than killing them. Choose the “Best” candidates, and send to Isle Royale. Sort of a redemption island.

    It’s rather a foregone conclusion what will happen on Isle Royale with no wolves. The whole non intervention thing has gone out the window, for all the reasons folks have mentioned above, and for that matter, wolf reintroduction in YNP.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Yes. 🙂

    • Louise Kane says:

      good idea Immer

      too bad this and other areas could not provide haven for the poor wolves from Idaho, Montana and Wisconsin to provide some relief from the most murderous wolf killing plans/hunts. Montana’s new season and regs makes me feel sick every day thinking about it, same with the upcoming dog/wolf hunting season. some truly shameful policies and actions against these animals. You’d think things would have changed for the better in all this time. Not

      • ramses09 says:

        You would think wouldn’t you..?? It is after all almost 2014 & STILL the wolf is persecuted. I feel the same way about the wolf hunts, it breaks my heart thinking that those wolves out there are being hunted (with hatred in ones heart for the species)

  8. Kathleen says:

    Isle Royale is 98% designated Wilderness, according to the article linked below (99% according to …for Wilderness advocates, that means (most likely) a policy of nonintervention.

    Here’s a good article:

    “What should be done to save Isle Royale wolves? Maybe nothing, experts say”

    And from

    • Ida Lupine says:

      As for climate change, Mech said that while warming temperatures may be making ice bridges a rare occurrence, it’s also possible that shifts toward weather extremes could, over time, create more ice bridges. In which case, wolves from Minnesota’s recovered population stand ready to make the trip.

      “We have cried wolf for 25 years” about their disappearance from Isle Royale, Mech said. “Let’s just wait and see what happens!”

      Hmmmm….interesting. He has a point?

      But people shouldn’t be introducing parvo by carelessly bringing pet dogs with them. We can’t do anything and everything we want.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      I have never been to the UP or Isle Royale and would be thrilled to visit.

  9. Bob Zybach says:


    I know you have “a dog in the fight” (, but please seriously consider reading Chapter 3 in Daniel Botkin’s new book, the Moon in the Nautilus Shell on this topic. Botkin is a foremost expert on the Isle Royale wolf and moose populations and has a significantly different perspective than you. At the very least, the anonymous commenters that populate this blog would seemingly benefit by some scientifically challenging reading of this nature. Also, I’d be personally interested in your responses to Botkin’s facts and assertions.

    • JEFF E says:

      WoW Bob. I thought you were outta here. apparently you prefer to be a lurker with the option of the occasional zinger.


      • Immer Treue says:

        Beat me to it.

      • Bob Zybach says:

        Thank you, Mr. E: More of a topic monitor than a lurker — the insider chit-chat and anonymous participants type of blog is not my cup of tea when it comes to personal time management. Here is a discussion group dealing with Botkin’s book that people who use their real names might be interested in joining or monitoring:

        • JEFF E says:


          and what make you believe I do not use my real name other than your false sense of superiority?

          topic monitor; that’s rich.

          • Bob Zybach says:

            I called you Mr. E — what makes you think I thought it was a pseudonym? And what makes you think I have a false sense of superiority, or even a sense of superiority? Just because I’m not afraid to use my own name, or because I read books and recommend others do so, too? “Topic monitor” is more accurate than “lurker,” according to the dictionary. Or do you think using automated Google search engines for monitoring topics should be called “lurking?” Not sure of where you’re coming from, E, but I’m guessing you are hiding behind a pseudonym. And when — exactly — are you expecting? You’re starting to sound a bit like the trolls that caused me to stop participating in this blog before. What about Botkin’s Chapter 3, eh? Maybe you could comment on that. That would be a refreshing change of pace.

    • Immer Treue says:


      I’d very much like to read Botkin’s book, but the air of your tome smacks a bit of condescension. Why not spare the ‘apparent’ attitude, recommend the book (which does seem highly rated), and based on Botkin’s chapter three, why not just state his case for Isle Royale wolves and let the discussion evolve?

      • Bob Zybach says:

        You’re reading too much into it, Immer. And why paraphrase Botkin when he can do a better job himself? I’d recommend reading the book and perhaps commenting on it as a way of furthering discussion. Chapter 3 is the main part that is specific to this post, and we’re barely past Chapter 1 in the discussion group (posted above).

        • Immer Treue says:


          I beg to differ.

          ” At the very least, the anonymous commenters that populate this blog would seemingly benefit by some scientifically challenging reading of this nature.”

          Why not just suggest to read the book, and chapter 3 deals with the subject matter of this thread. Whether I read too much into your comment or not, a bit of paraphrasing said chapter would have decreased the mystery, and warm the reception to your suggestion.

          Some of us who anonymously commented on this thread are well versed in the sciences, and welcome new and ‘challenging’ perspectives in ecology.

          • JEFF E says:

            BoB has not yet become a target IMO.

            wait for it…….

            • Bob Zybach says:

              A target of what, Jeff? Anonymous ad hominem attackers? Mindless trolls? Been there and done that, even on this blog. I’d prefer some meaningful discussion, but to each his own. If people enjoy making cowardly attacks on others, then that’s their prerogative. I’d prefer discussing Isle Royale with intelligent adults.

          • Bob Zybach says:

            It’s a great book, Ida, and well worth your time. Chapter 3 is specific to the original topic of this post, but all of it is germane and current.

          • Bob Zybach says:

            Immer: Are you saying most commenters on this blog are using their real names, as they do in the Letters to Editor sections of the local newspaper? Or that most commenters even stay on topic, much less express well-versed scientific opinions? Both assertions differ from my experiences here.

            If you think there is a better way to introduce other perspectives, I’d suggest you read the book (or at least Chapter 3) and use your own methods for presenting your thoughts. Sometimes people are attracted to mystery, and a lot of times they attack the paraphrase instead of doing the homework — at least those have been my experiences. Yours may differ.

            • Immer Treue says:

              No Bob,

              What I’m attempting to get through to you is you lack discretion. The author, the book, and chapter three. Give a bit of insight on the topic of the thread, rather than condescension towards those who commented. With the jawing back and forth, time has been wasted.

              Why not just simply share some information about chapter three. Two of us have voiced an interest in the book. And two of us have called you on your condescension. Makes it a wash.

              • Bob Zybach says:

                Immer: If two of you (or even one)read the book then it has been a victory, not a wash, no matter what you might infer from my writing. My actual comment was directed to the author of the post, who is clearly identified by his real name, and also an expert on wolves. I have no reason to provide a synthesis of the recommended reading other than to say it has an expert perspective that differs from his and something he should definitely read. Why give him my own spin on the contents when I clearly stated that I was interested in his personal opinions of the readings? The last thing I wanted was a response to my own interpretations at this point.

                So far as my own thoughts and opinions are concerned, I provided a link to a blog that is going over Botkin’s work in detail. I am just now preparing a post regarding Chapter 2 of the book, at the moderator’s request, and we haven’t reached Chapter 3 yet. My “condescending” remarks were aimed at several nameless individuals who dominated the discussion with irrelevant chit-chat and ad hominem attacks in my last visit to the blog and I have no interest in repeating that nonsense. As I stated, they were “the very least” of my interest in suggesting the book.

                I’d suggest reading the entire book — including Chapter 3, which is specific to this post — and perhaps sharing your thoughts on this blog with other commenters, if that’s what you want. If Ralph reads it (and I think he should)and responds, then that is all I was trying to achieve.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          I’d love to read it.

    • Jake Jenson says:

      Thank you Bob ordered my copy and looking forward to the read.

      • Bob Zybach says:

        Thanks, Jake: Good to hear! With Ralph’s permission I have reposted his column at the Botkin book discussion blog:

        I would be pleased to have members of this blog post there as well, once they have read enough of the book to comment. Pseudonyms are ok, but it would be great if you described who you are on the Introduction page first, as others have. Heated discussion is fine — even desirable — but people who use their anonymity to attack others, presume an undocumented air of authority, or create off-topic side-discussions will be discouraged. Trolls will be beheaded if we ever learn who they are. See Wikipedia for a good definition of trolls — they often seem to have a hard time recognizing themselves.

    • Ralph Maughan says:


      I know you don’t like our policy of allowing anonymous comments. Most every forum is asking how to stop the flood of stupid and hateful comments it can generate. We do it by moderation of them. Most of it is through the initial screen, but after a time some commenters get booted.

      We also at times delete comments, or even an entire thread if it has really gone to hell.

      Requiring a real name does promote responsibility, but it also excludes a whole host of people who fear some kind of reprisal or social blowback.

      • Bob Zybach says:

        Thanks, Ralph: Yup, those are the reasons I don’t like anonymous commenters. Some of them are responsible and have a reason for being anonymous. The ones that use their anonymity to make personal attacks on others,troll for attention, or assume an air of unstated authority as they lecture the rest of us are the ones that make me avoid the blogs that cater to them and to (try) and avoid responding to their nonsense. I really like the trend of the past few years in which people clearly identify themselves and are personally responsible for their comments. Like you and me. If a person must hide their identity for employment reasons or some other reasonable cause, they shouldn’t use that disguise to also post cowardly attacks on real people, or waste time and space on their ego games. Glad you have such a policy to deal with that type of participant!

        • Ida Lupine says:

          Bob, some of us don’t use our real names for the most basic of reasons: we’re nobodies who you wouldn’t know from Adam anyway! 🙂

          I am just a concerned citizen for whom wildlife and wildlands are a passion, and more and more so as they keep being abused and dwindling.

          However, I may soon begin to use my real name because this place is the most intelligent, respectful and least trollish place I have ever taken part in. We do get into some heated discussions (which I love), and I respect every opinion on here).

          • Bob Zybach says:

            Hi Ida: It’s really none of my business, but I hope you do start using your real name — then you are actually somebody, not a nobody. I’ve been on blogs for several years now and co-moderate two: Global Warming and forest management. You are the type of “responsible” anonymous person that I really have no quarrel with — it is the trolls and name-calling cowards and “social” chit-chatters that tend to get under my skin and cause me to call them out or else move on. One less target for the nitwits, and one less time waster in my own life. I love the heated discussions, too, because people who are passionate and disagree tend to move in that direction — and we often learn a lot through those exchanges. I am a “nobody,” too, and I’m sure that you and most other commenters on this blog never heard of me before I began (infrequently) participating here. But a quick Google search and you can quickly learn more about me than I am probably comfortable with! Of course that provides all kinds of fuels for the anonymous cowards to play with, and little for me to counter with when “charleyhorse 2” or whoever begins attacking my credentials or begins trolling for attention. The Internet is new, blogging is new, and we are all still working out the kinks in this wonderful new world of communications. And I’ve learned to avoid the irresponsible (not you!) anonymous goofballs that are afraid and would be ashamed to use their real names. And for good reason. Fortunately, as Ralph explains above, those time-wasters are beginning to be weeded out of most successful blogs and relegated to chat rooms or wherever else they can hide. There are not too many higher callings than concerned citizens, but they only have a voice that counts if they have a real identity — just like voting, reporting to work, or having a letter published in the local newspaper. In my opinion.

            • Ida Lupine says:

              Awww, thanks! 🙂

            • Nancy says:

              “Fortunately, as Ralph explains above, those time-wasters are beginning to be weeded out of most successful blogs and relegated to chat rooms or wherever else they can hide”

              Can relate to that comment Bob but what about those of us who comment here that have concerns about the harsh treatment of predators, like where I live – a small, rural, ranching community – where the “smoke a pack a day” mentality is quite prevalent and I’d guess, more than a few of that same crowd? Look forward to the Annual Coyote Derby put on by one of the local feed stores (and, an assortment of other sponsors)

              Ralph & Ken might be “weeding” out the time-wasters but the site has no control over who might access the site(lurk) And while I’m certainly not opposed to a sit down with those in my area who find my views on predators “different” then their century old approach of eradicating them, I’d rather not have them come a calling because they got my real name off the Wildlife News and just happen to be in my area, say at some ungodly hour of the night or morning 🙂

              You get my drift, right? Your area of Oregon is just starting to feel the aches, pains and wonders of wolves back on the landscape.

              My area, for some pathetic reason, is still very overwhelmed by the thought of just a few hundred of them being around and can’t wait to reduce their numbers because… its all about hunting and livestock and not about the benefit of having predators on the landscape.

              • Bob Zybach says:

                Nancy: I understand your point completely and, as I wrote to Ida, I have little problem discussing things with people who have legitimate reasons for using a pseudonym and — yes — I understand the strong feelings and possible repercussions to people on both sides of the fence regarding the artificial reintroduction of wolves into ranching communities. I am talking about those who use their anonymity to make personal attacks on others, to troll for a response by being provocative or just plain stupid, to lecture the rest of us on their superior knowledge and/or ethics, or who use blogs for amusing insider chit-chat regarding last week’s beer party or Marianne’s new dress. The time wasters. Neither you or Ida seem to fit into any of those categories, but I’m sure you’re both aware of many commenters who do, including several present or former members of this blog (and on my own blogs, too). It’s them that I have issues with, not people like you or Ida. And, for the record, in most instances it is people who are the principal predator on the landscape, and we are a very territorial animal.

              • Immer Treue says:


                Well said. I am skeptical of one who rarely comes to this site, and is all all about what’s your real name. I think it was SAP (who is about as genuine with his/her comments as anyone on this site) why do I want someone to know who I am and get my dog killed because of what I say. Same thing here. I live rural, in the woods. My opinions should neither put me, my family, friends, pets in jeapordy.

              • Jake Jenson says:

                I hear that Nancy, nothing quite like having your wall tent destroyed or completely disappeared or your new truck’s tires slashed and the paint scraped off by a knife while your off hunting in the Stanley Basin because you’re known to be pro wolf management.

                • Ralph Maughan says:

                  It is extremely important that people on all sides of these issue refrain from property damage of people’s vehicles and the like in the backcountry. If they don’t people will start getting shot and people will stop using the backcountry.

  10. JEFF E says:

    maybe change the name to The Island of Doctor Moreau.

  11. SEAK Mossback says:

    Given that this small island has so long served as a laboratory, I tend to opt of #2. However, the question is then, how long do you want to watch it play in reverse after the wolves are gone before introducing new ones. In the end, it is important to recognize that Isle Royale is just one experiment that will always have very limited application to other areas, particularly to multi-predator systems that are more the norm. Ultimately, I would like to see it left in as balanced and diverse a natural state as possible with adequate control on herbivory.

    • Bob Zybach says:

      Seak: I’d prefer Option #1. Botkin discusses and earlier attempt to artificially introduce wolves to the island that ended in failure. What is the purpose of artificial wolf introductions in the first place, or the reason for controlling the herbivory, however “adequate” is defined? As is, Isle Royale is an ideal place to study non-human ecological interrelationships over a long period of time — why mess? What would the purpose be in tinkering with a so-called “naturally functioning ecosystem” that isn’t (for the most part) being directly affected by human actions. It’s not a wolf park, why try and engineer it into being one? For what purpose?

      • Bob —
        I think when this came up before, I stated a position more similar to yours but more from a standpoint of continuing scientific observation and documenting perhaps more closely (than was done before wolf colonization) over a long period of time the changes in reverse (not so much based on adherence to a principle of letting “nature take its course”). Your point is well taken though — it is a national park and if you start tinkering where does it stop? On the other hand, it could be pretty grim with a moose population with no control other than nutritional stress — I guess we can both agree it is not a decision that needs to be made for years. Maybe we’ll find the moose eventually die off too?

        In looking around up this way, it is clear that what is on islands is somewhat happenstance. One can always find reasons to laud or criticize introduction decisions that have been made (speaking primarily here about the Sitka blacktailed deer which was previously limited strictly to the main part of SE Alaska). They have been introduced to the north on islands in Prince William Sound and are quite popular with hunters and seem to function the same as here with no evident ill ecological effects (largely because of frequent heavy snowfall that periodically resets the populations through starvation).

        Ditto Kodiak — long isolated by a formidible body of water, I think the only large land mammal of any kind there was the brown bear (not unnoticed in the 50s and 60s by cattle ranchers who fought mightily for control of the islands super lush grass, even gunning brown bears with a pair of M1 rifles mounted on a supercub), but deer are now a cultural institution in Kodiak and it’s hard to see where they have caused significant damage — but without much canopy they winter kill very easily. On the other hand, Sitka blacktails have been extremely destructive just to the south on the Queen Charlotte Islands, which once had many unique species, to the extent that there was a major multi-disciplinary research project to try to come up with solutions. Whereas limited commercial hunting was a failure, one idea that could potentially have helped (introducing wolves) was considered by many a bridge too far (based on resistance to introducing yet another “exotic” by ecologists, and the usual concern about the species by others).

        Introductions are a tricky thing — I can always identify (in wildlife and sporting magazines)trophy ungulate photos taken around my old home at Mammoth Hot Springs by the exotic Dalmatian toad flax in the foreground. My neighbor in the late 60s, an NPS entomologist, hatched the idea of bringing over an insect from Switzerland that eats toad flax, and scattered little enclosures with incubating catepillars around the hills. I believe it was a failure, but what if it had been a success –with side effects?

        • Bob Zybach says:

          Seak: I’m an Oregon boy, but I spent the summer of 1967 in Ketchikan and Juneau, where I started the first (and probably one of the last) light shows in Alaska: “Northern Lights, Ltd.” I really appreciate learning more about the deer populations of the islands as I had no idea they had been artificially introduced. I mostly remember the bears that occasionally came into town and required police action, and the aggressive ravens of Juneau that once attacked me at 4:00 AM in the downtown area.

          I think you would really enjoy Botkin’s book as you touch upon several of his principal themes. I’d also enjoy reading your thoughts on his observations of island populations and predator-prey relationships; but be forewarned that you would be expected to comment under your actual name — which also adds significant credibility to your thoughts and observations.

      • JB says:


        Many of the species we hunt and fish are introduced, and unlike wolves, some of these are actually not native to the places they are introduced (e.g., pheasant, lake trout) and some are even hybrids (e.g., saugeye). I think the reason to RE-introduce wolves would be that our presence modifies the probability that they will re-occupy the island. And it isn’t just climate change, it’s also our tendency to occupy areas along the shore and to hold wolf populations at lower densities than would naturally occur.

        (If I recall correctly, the previous attempt to reintroduce wolves involved captive, zoo animals, which may explain its failure.)

      • Immer Treue says:


        Let me try this again. You have finally admitted what you would do with the Isle Royale wolf situation. I respect your opinion. Perhaps Botkin supports your conclusion, perhaps not.

        “I leave you with this question: If the wolf population drops more and there are no pups in 2013, what would you do if you were in charge? For myself, I would hope to sit down with Rolf Peterson, who has led the wolf research project on the island for 30 years, and knows more about it than anybody I am aware of. I would like to know what he thinks would be best, and the put that into the context of all the reasons we want to conserve nature.”

        As I don’t have the book in front of me (on order, MN winters are long, and I look forward to good reading) I can’t really comment on what Botkin writes. No threat to my own personal philosophy. I have been to Isle Royale over the years for perhaps 60 days or so, and one of the reasons, yes, are wolves.

        Option one, do nothing and allow the wolves to go extinct is a viable option. There are, based on past history, known consequences. SEAK brought up the aspect of herbivory.

        The last time wolf numbers were down for an extended period of time, moose numbers sky rocketed, only to crash over the Winters of 95/96 and 96/97. This was a repetition of what occurred, I believe, twice in the past. Hopefully, Botkin addresses this, which if he is thorough in his perspective, I’m sure he will.

        There is very little possibility for moose to leave Isle Royale, as the swim is both long and hazardous. I don’t forsee mass emigration.

        Islands by definition are surrounded by water, yet island populations of animals are becoming more frequent on land masses. Yellowstone is a good example. Everyone likes to site the impact of wolves on the Northern Yellowstone elk herd. Yet the 19-20 thousand elk that were there were grossly overpopulated. In the past, with similar numbers, mass elk die offs occurred.

        • Bob Zybach says:

          Immer: I don’t know what you mean by “finally admitted.” I responded to SEAK’s position, and it had nothing at all to do with my original comment, which was to urge the moderator of this blog to read and consider Botkin’s work on Isle Royale. My position has been pretty firm on artificial introductions of exotic plants and animals for many years — whether they be bass or ctafish, chukars or Chinese pheasants, landscape trees and shrubs in urban settings, or off-site Douglas-fir seedlings in forest plantations. I have always championed native species (grouse, cutthroat trout, blackberries, camas, etc., etc.) and been wary of artificial introductions. There is no “finally admitted” involved, and my opinion on the matter had nothing to do with my original comment.

          I’m glad you’re reading Botkin’s book, though. It is excellent read and worthy of unhurried reflection. His seminal research work on Isle Royale is well known, and his conclusions are based on his time spent there. My opinion is a separate issue.

          • Immer Treue says:

            Finally admitted: announced your position; philosophical stance, however you want to express your opinion.

            As I said above, I respect your opinion, yet I believe your entry into this discussion was awkward, and a bit on the condescending side to some of the contributors on this blog site. I’m not the blog police.

            As one who has read volumes on Isle Royale, have kept up with the study for over 40 years, have spent time on Isle Roysle, developed two curriculums for students on Isle Royale, and as one of the “anonymous” posters to this site, I took your initial comment as a left handed compliment, at best.

            I’ve done some digging about Botkin and I am in accord with much of what he writes in regard to natural selection/evolution. I look forward to reading his book.

            Back to the original thread. I believe options two or three are the best possible solutions, as a runaway moose population with resulting massive starvation, based on past history on Isle Royale is inevitable.

            • Immer Treue says:

              Ooops! Over thirty years.

            • Bob Zybach says:

              Immer: If you are truly concerned about a “runaway moose population,” why not just have a hunting season, as Aldo Leopold might suggest? That would solve that problem, provide needed income to the State, and provide meaningful recreation for a number of individuals and their families. My guess is that your opinion is clouded by your bias toward wolves, and that “excessive” moose simply provide a rationale for maintaining exotic wolf populations in an area they had never been known to inhabit prior to this time.

              This is an important point, though, and one that I coincidentally just covered in my post on Chapter 2 of Botkin’s book regarding this exact problem with the “elephants of Tsavo”:

              • Immer Treue says:


                “Immer: If you are truly concerned about a “runaway moose population,” why not just have a hunting season, as Aldo Leopold might suggest?”

                Is that itself not interference? Yeah, I know, isn’t man a part of nature? Sure, I have a soft spot for wolves. I’m also in favor of wolf management. If we can manage in the (-) direction, why not in the(+)direction? No livestock depredation on Isle Royale. Sure it’s an island archipelago that may require occasional tweaking, but why not have a place for wolves where they don’t have “worry” about humans.

                Bob, I live in NE Minnesota. Nothing exotic about wolves. In regard to my “bias” toward wolves, I question your intent. Since I could read I have been fascinated by wolves. And as I mentioned above, I have no problem with wolf management, within ethical bounds, a completely different topic.

                • Bob Zybach says:

                  Immer: I have no problem at all with managing wildlife populations or other resources and, in fact, think it is our ethical responsibility as the principal keystone species/predator/consumer on the planet. My objection was/is to the artificial introduction of species in uncontrolled environments. Whether a moose is killed by a wolf or by a man or by a parasite is of little concern to me. Every living thing dies at some point, and most of it is turned into food. You missed my point, in order to make your own. My “intent” was to guess that you were biased toward wolves, based on your statement, and you readily confirmed my guess. You keep trying to read too much into my statements and I’m not sure why.

              • Immer Treue says:

                ” You missed my point, in order to make your own. My “intent” was to guess that you were biased toward wolves, based on your statement, and you readily confirmed my guess. You keep trying to read too much into my statements and I’m not sure why.”

                Not at all. You don’t have to guess about me. One of the reasons I remain anonymous, because too many people on different sites that I no longer participate in tried to “guess” about me. Why don’t you just ask?

                My fascination in, and interest in wolves has enriched my life. I choose to live in a place where wolves still run fairly freely, although there are many up here who believe the only good wolf is a dead wolf. That is bias.

                This is not meant to be confrontational, but you brought suggestions that were good, yet you make casual observations about people that have little merit. I literally have wolves in my back yard, have no problem with them, and believe they belong here.

                If you want to have a discussion, fine. Lets have a discussion. Please stop the guessing.

              • Immer Treue says:


                The only game being played here is by you, and you have played it from your original post. Ralph, and Nancy (just recently) have explained why some of us remain anonymous. Immer is German for always.

                You’re interest in who I am, or anybody that chooses to be anonymous on this blog borders on creepy. Ralph knows who I am. If that’s good enough for him, great.

                I repeat: if you want to have a discussion, lets discuss. The “ball is in your court”.

                • Bob Zybach says:

                  Immer: I could care less who you are. That’s your problem. I was just accepting your challenge of “asking.” You seem to enjoy making digs at me from behind your cloak of secrecy, and that is what strikes me as truly “creepy,” whether by you or by anyone else. I have little interest in having substantive or prolonged discussions with anonymous people, and that is my prerogative. You ought to read Botkin, since you seem incapable of reading or responding accordingly to my own actual comments. I’m really not too interested in carrying on this conversation much longer. I enjoy semantics ok, but not with rude and/or anonymous people. My choice.

  12. Bob Zybach says:

    PS Immer, please note that I AGREED with both Ralph and Nancy. Maybe you should be taking a little time to read my actual responses before being in such a hurry to deliver your next “sly” dig or innuendo — or “zinger” as you call them. Read, then write, is my advice. You’re starting to sound more and more like a troll, albeit a knowledgeable one (assuming your claims are factual — not sure about the wolves in the backyard bit, unless they’re in a pen or something).

    • Immer Treue says:


      Other than the suggestion that Botkin’s book is a worthwhile read, and an exchange you had with SEAK, all you’ve done is babble on about who somebody is. You’ve totally hijacked a thread with your pompous self righteousness. If you don’t believe what I said about myself, what good is it if I give you a name? Would you also like my SSN. Then you could cross check. Or you could be a decent human being, and accept that what I said about myself and my opinions are true. I have no reason to lie.

      I don’t recall using the term zinger. I am also very cautious using the word troll. However, I have commented on TWN for about five years, and almost totally restrict myself to this blog and a couple book sites. I don’t troll. You, on the other hand come here once every blue moon, and seem to ruffle feathers about real names. It’s been explained to you. Period.

      If you don’t like how I’ve responded to you, that’s too bad. You’ve “earned” it. You have contributed almost nothing to the subject matter of this thread. If you consider it a “victory” that some of us might read Botkin’s book, that’s good.

      I’m done with you. If you comment in TWN in the future, I’ll ignore you, as hopefully you will me.

      Long goodbyes are always so painful.:)

      Auf weidersehen



      • Bob Zybach says:

        Goodbye, Immer. It’s been a pleasure, I’m sure.

      • JEFF E says:

        +1 Immer.
        It does seem that lurker is much more interested in the messenger than the message. Why not focus on the message?
        quite frankly lurker you post under a name.
        if that is your real name or not who cares.
        your character is more than apparent, regardless of your screen name.

        it’s called a “screen name”, lurker, and is an accepted convention by the Owner of this blog. Don’t like it lurker, tough.
        Start your own blog and make up the rules for it.

        • Bob Zybach says:

          It’s amazing how brave some people become when they hide behind a pseudonym. That’s why they’re called cowards. Jeffie, for your information I co-moderate two blogs and we do have rules against nitwits like you. The topic was Isle Royale wolves, in case you missed it. No more responses from me to you — I’ve already wasted enough time on your stupidity. I guess you and Immer can continue on talking to each other, telling each other how smart you are. Only nobody cares. Bye.

          • JEFF E says:

            wow, that broke a record.

            usually takes a day or so to train someone lurker, but I had you trained to come when I called in less than a half hour.

    • WM says:


      If you think Immer is a troll, you simply haven’t been monitoring or participating this forum long enough to make such an assessment. He is one of the most thoughtful, knowledgeable, balanced and gracious posters here – anonymous or not. And, I simply have not doubt about the truth and veracity of the comments he makes (I may not always agree, but that goes to our respective value judgments or interpretation of information).

      As for your admonitions for those who post under pseudonyms, I don’t think you really have the right to dictate it. You sure as hell haven’t earned it. When you show up, my sense is you are a bit of a bully. And, my advice, such as it is, if you find Immer’s anonymity “creepy,” perhaps you would be more comfortable to take your leave and not have to deal with it.

      Otherwise, buck up and enjoy a substantive conversation. You won’t have too much trouble figuring out who the real trolls are. They are the ones, it seems, usually talking about the trait in everyone but themselves.

      • Bob Zybach says:

        WM: I’m not trying to dictate anything to anybody. Maybe you should read my responses to Ida, Nancy, and Ralph before making that judgment. I didn’t even say Immer was a troll, exactly, but that I was beginning to think so with her snarky semantics and innuendo. The “zinger” reference was to her immediate support of Mr. E’s use of the term. And I didn’t say she was “creepy” (to further borrow her terms) because she was anonymous, but because she was using her anonymity to make insulting insinuations and comments to me. Just like an anonymous troll would, in order to get a response. My comfort level has always been determined by me, but thanks for the suggestion. And I don’t enjoy many “substantive conversations” with most anonymous people ever — thought I made that clear by repeating it several times. Seems almost like an oxymoron to me. How about those Isle Royale wolves, eh?

        • Barb Rupers says:

          I have followed Immer on another blog and agree with WM about the truth and veracity of his comments.

        • WM says:


          I can’t say for sure, or whether it makes much difference, but I have been under the impression Immer was a “he” for as long as I have been commenting here – that would be counted in years.

          In any case, even if I am wrong on gender, I am lead to believe rather consistently that Immer has lived in wolf country for a long time, knows Isle Royale well, regularly visits the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN (and has a student teaching objective in mind), and has a soft spot for sitting in front of a wood stove with a good blended scotch whiskey on occasion, while reading a contemplative literary piece, in the presence of an aging and loyal German shepherd at his/her feet. Sometimes this activity is preceded by a good cross-country ski outing during which wolves may have been seen or heard. All of these are attributes I find admirable in an anonymous commenter. And, by the way the substantive comments fit closely the profile I just described.


          As for those Isle Royale wolves, I don’t think I am ready to weigh in, except to say I am not personally in favor of letting them die off from genetic stagnation, unless there is some good scientific basis for doing so. Seems to me an Environmental Assessment under NEPA hopefully concluding an EIS is required would help flesh out the issues – what the costs and benefits are and to whom. There may be some conflicting values between what National Park visitors might want, as compared to what scientists might hope to learn under the various scenarios. I do think this is a significant federal action requiring a NEPA review.

          Frankly, I don’t think Rolf Peterson’s request for folks to weigh in with NPS on how they feel through an email format, without facts and figures presented to review in some organized, and presumably objective, framework is very useful. Anybody else feel that way?

          • Bob Zybach says:


            I don’t know if Immer is a man or woman, either. I was just informed that it was a “she” by one of your members who contacted me privately to have an actual conversation, that Immer was a woman. The person who contacted me didn’t want to comment directly on the blog because of all the vitriol that can (obviously) bring. I’m guessing that most of the stuff that Immer claims is likely true — excepting the wolves in the backyard nonsense of course — but I think he/she could learn a lesson in manners and communication skills by what I’ve read the past few days. His/her problem, not mine.

            I agree with your assessment of Rolf Peterson’s approach. Apparently he’s trying to use modern communications to involve the public, and really doesn’t know how to go about it. It’s an important question that will hopefully be handled in a public forum and (mostly) civil discussions. Botkin, of course, references Peterson’s work, and it fits nicely with the principal lesson he is trying to impart with that chapter of his book.

            Good luck!


          • ma'iingan says:

            “I am not personally in favor of letting them die off from genetic stagnation, unless there is some good scientific basis for doing so.”

            I can certainly understand your perspective, but I think there is a good scientific basis for Option 1.

            I’ve seen some computer simulations that predict the extinction of wolves AND moose.

            Even when dampened by wolf predation, moose have pretty much ruined their own forage base on the island, and permanently altered some of the plant communities. There are significant portions of the island that offer only subsistence fare for moose.

            Moose and wolves are just part of the succession of the island’s landscape – they were preceded by a lynx/hare/caribou system, and there will be another phase in the succession after they’re gone.

            And then there’s the part that bothers me ethically – we know that any “genetic rescue” will need to be repeated at intervals. It seems somewhat cruel to me, to artificially support a known genetically- bottlenecked population as a large-scale lab experiment.

            • Bob Zybach says:

              From: Bob Zybach
              Subject: Isle Royale wolves
              Date: September 30, 2013 10:32:49 PM PDT
              To: Rolf Peterson
              Cc: Ralph Maughan, Gil DeHuff

              Rolf Peterson:

              I am a firm believer in option 1. Isle Royale isn’t a wolf park or a zoo and the fact that wolves are an in-bred population there has scientific merit in its own right. I’m pretty sure you may be following the arguments of the pro-wolf blogs and perhaps the Botkin “chapter 3” discussions. Here are the current positions I agree with:

              1) “ma’iingan” @
              Even when dampened by wolf predation, moose have pretty much ruined their own forage base on the island, and permanently altered some of the plant communities. There are significant portions of the island that offer only subsistence fare for moose.

              Moose and wolves are just part of the succession of the island’s landscape – they were preceded by a lynx/hare/caribou system, and there will be another phase in the succession after they’re gone.

              And then there’s the part that bothers me ethically – we know that any “genetic rescue” will need to be repeated at intervals. It seems somewhat cruel to me, to artificially support a known genetically- bottlenecked population as a large-scale lab experiment.

              2) Gil DeHuff @

              We have a situation where two different species have been part of two different random colonization actions. We have no idea whether or not there have been numerous failed colonizations prior to the two being discussed. We know that there is no record of a sustainable population of either of these two species prior to 1900. We also know from the links above that the isolation of the island prohibits both species from migrating to elsewhere in times of overpopulation and low resources. That same isolation combined with large die backs of both species has already lead to a significant in-breeding problem with the wolf and suggests the potential for future in-breeding problems for the Moose.
              Based on the above, my preferred management option is to let colonization run its course and either fail or succeed on its own. No case for restoration can be made based on history. No case can be made for gene pool augmentation since isolation combined with insufficient carrying capacity would quickly collapse the gene pool again after any population augmentation efforts were made in the name of diversifying the gene pool.

              I don’t think I can improve on the statements of either of these individuals, and they most closely represent my own as well.


              Bob Zybach, PhD.

            • Ida Lupine says:

              It seems somewhat cruel to me, to artificially support a known genetically- bottlenecked population as a large-scale lab experiment.

              You don’t think wildlife populations are looked at as ‘large-scale lab experiments’ everywhere? This sounds rather disingenuous. In our modern world, is there anywhere that isn’t affected by human activities and is considered ‘natural’ anymore?

              I have a couple of questions – what if wolves were to return on their own? What would we do then – leave them be or ‘manage’ (interfere)? I tend to agree with what Dr. Mech said – I don’t know if I’m being overly optimistic or not.

              • Ida Lupine says:

                I think wolf hunting is to be considered ‘a large scale lab experiment’ with a recently recovered populations, due to the repeated references about ‘learning’ and ‘not knowing’ what the effects of hunting will be. This is dangerous. Delisting itself was one thing, but immediate hunting throws everything into flux. Complete delisting in the lower 48 is dangerous for a recently recovered population.

                I’ve heard Dan Ashe refer to wolves not going extinct due to ‘robust populations in Canada’. It makes one wonder why Canadian wolves and US wolves are grouped as one when it is convenient, and considered not native when it is not.

              • ma'iingan says:

                “This sounds rather disingenuous.”

                Oh really. What’s disingenuous are wolf advocates who decry hunting harvests as roadblocks for regional genetic diversity – but then endorse artificially supporting a genetically isolated population that WE KNOW is going to develop congenital abnormalities without regular intervention.

                And let’s ask these advocates how to manage a prey base that likely has genetic anomalies of its own, with more to come – and appears to be suffering effects from climate change and poor winter forage.

                If the IR moose population crashes due to winter mortality or reproductive anomalies, are we to refresh them as well?

            • JB says:

              The interest question (for me) isn’t what you believe–everyone has an opinion; rather, it’s why you believe what you believe. Or put another way, what principle do you use to justify the “right” action.

              From my perspective, neither the science of inbreeding nor the geological history of the island are really all that relevant. What’s relevant (again, my perspective) is whether one (a) supports a policy of interventionism? and (b) if so, what (if any) ‘state’ should the intervention be designed to maintain? From a policy perspective, federal agencies (including the NPS) intervene in all sorts of cases–especially when human actions are implicated (usually to counter these effects). Wilderness policy is trickier. Generally, we have adopted an non-intervention policy in the wilderness; however, there are also many exceptions to this general rule(including policy directed at increasing the harvest of wolves to promote more game).

              I find I’m generally ambiguous about what should be done, and, given the complexity of the situation, suspicious of those who feel strongly one way or another.

              • Ida Lupine says:

                I guess I don’t think that hunting wolves promotes more game, and why we need to promote more game. We really need to look at our own activities as to why game would be falling. It is overly simplistic to blame wolves. Studies show that game animals are doing just fine.

                A policy of non-intervention but with numerous exceptions is just self-serving and hypocritical.

              • JB says:

                “A policy of non-intervention but with numerous exceptions is just self-serving and hypocritical.”

                Ida: That depends upon whether you are principled (or ‘ideological’) or pragmatic in your approach to such decisions. One might argue that having a policy of non-intervenism in an era where human impacts are increasingly apparent is unethical if one believes that we have a duty to ‘correct’ such impacts where they are clear.

              • Ida Lupine says:

                Well if they want to ‘correct’ – that is honorable. But increasingly I think our interventions are for selfish reasons.

  13. Nancy says:

    “and — yes — I understand the strong feelings and possible repercussions to people on both sides of the fence regarding **artificial reintroduction** of wolves into ranching communities”

    Okay Bob, discussion over 🙂

    Thanks Immer…..

  14. Ida Lupine says:

    why do I want someone to know who I am and get my dog killed because of what I say. Same thing here. I live rural, in the woods. My opinions should neither put me, my family, friends, pets in jeopardy.

    Well, this is my biggest fear also. I would not want to be terrorized because of my beliefs – it would be a waste of time because as I said I am nobody and have no sphere of influence whatsoever. I have been someone who loves wilderness and wildlife all my life, have followed the plight of wolves for decades, and want to do what I can to protect it and them.

    I have no interest in who people are and understand totally if they want to remain anonymous. We’re lucky we don’t get trolled very often here. For me, I’m here for valuable discussion.

    Immer, I hope you aren’t going anywhere because your opinions are valued.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      And I only visit this site – I have no need to get myself all riled up visiting what I have gathered are anti-wolf blogs, and this one is such a wealth of information it is all I need. I’m on this one enough as it is! 🙂

    • Barb Rupers says:

      Ditto Ida’s comment, I have valued your opinion for a number of years now, both here and elsewhere.

      • Barb Rupers says:

        That should have been a plural “comments” for Ida’s last two comments. I was directing my response to Immer.

  15. Immer Treue says:

    WM, Ida, Barb, Nancy, JEFF E,

    Much obliged for the supportive comments.

  16. snaildarter says:

    As long as human activities alter eco-systems in negative ways it is our duty to adjust them in favor of our best guess of what would happen in an all-natural system (I define all natural as without human machines especially guns). On Isle Royal the climate should be colder with more access for wolves over winter ice, so help them survive. Besides there are so few places wolves can live without humans trying to slaughter them, all of those places should be preserved.

    • WM says:


      Those wolves, however many there might be in the future, have to have something to eat.

      ma’ (who is a practicing wolf scientist/professional in the WGL) said in an earlier post that the moose have almost eaten their way to a future nominal existence [my take on his comment], and that ecological plant succession does not bode well for future moose food supplies. Fire would be one way of knocking back ecological succession (producing more aspen and birch) to make it better for them, and maybe some vegetation management to reintroduce certain plants to specific areas where they are now absent because of overuse by moose. Do you see intervention for the benefit of both species, and maybe a few others now absent but once there?

      This is largely a National Park, administered to some degree for humans, though it gets nominal visitation of about 20,000 people per year, if I recall. Some think notwithstanding the limitations placed on park administration and Wilderness designation that limit intervention, more should be done. If the moose and the wolves are gone, will that reduce park visitation even more – and what will remain to bring folks to the island(s)?

      What level of intervention do you see, and do you think the island’s future is a project worthy of review under that could produce an environmental impact statement under NEPA?

      • Immer Treue says:

        Granted, the last time I was on Isle Royale was in the early 90’s… I could be wrong, but summer browse is no problem. I’ve observed as many as seven moose at a time on Feldtman Lake sticking their head under water for up to thirty seconds at a time for aquatic vegetation. From past literature and observation on IR, the big problem is winter browse, of which Balsam fir is important. The moose have either cropped the Balsam so they can’t reach any higher, or for all practical purposes mowed down the new growth. Winters of 95/96 and 96/97 saw moose population crash of ~ 2500 moose to about 500. Mass starvation in Winter,plus heavy tick loads.

      • snaildarter says:

        All I’m saying is the wolves got there via an ice bridge from Canada and their population was also ravaged by a human introduced disease. Superior is warmer now due to Climate Change so give them a little DNA boost if caribou belong there re-introduce them, lynxes too. We play god everywhere on earth so why not error on the side of APEX predators and complete eco-systems. Moose don’t do well in warmer weather so they might die out anyway since GW is beyond the Park Services control, but the inbreeding seems our fault, not the invisible hand of natural selection.

    • ma'iingan says:

      “As long as human activities alter eco-systems in negative ways it is our duty to adjust them in favor of our best guess of what would happen in an all-natural system (I define all natural as without human machines especially guns).”

      Caribou, lynx, and snowshoe hare were predominant on IR before the wolves and moose. They were extirpated due to human activities. Tell me what would have happened on the island without those human influences – and why we shouldn’t be trying to restore that state?

      • JB says:

        Of course we can’t know what would have happened (which I’m sure was your point). As to why we shouldn’t be trying to restore the previous state, I just don’t think it is practical, though I would be more tempted to visit the Island to see caribou and lynx. Certainly what is the ‘right’ course of action here is not necessarily apparent.

  17. Ida Lupine says:


    I was just wondering, not being critical – I appreciate your comments and expertise.

  18. cobackcountry says:

    I think the problem is bigger than what to do with the wolves that are still there. What happens next in any scenario? Augment the population and then what? They go back to this state down the road? There needs to be a broader picture painted than the short term fix of the genetics.

    • Harley says:

      It took a little over 50 years for the gene pool to stagnate. It all depends too. The study was originally founded on the whole, do nothing and observe philosophy. If they choose to ‘do’ something, they yes, perhaps there should be a long term goal of replenishing the gene pool every couple of decades. But what does that turn Isle Royale into eventually? Some sort of, contained zoo or game reserve? I don’t know. I guess I can make arguments for both 1 and 2. Tough decision and I’m glad I’m not the one making it.

      • Harley says:

        Typos and grammar errors, thank goodness I don’t teach English full time…!

        “It all depends too on what they decide”

        “If they choose to ‘do’ something, then yes, perhaps there should be a long term goal…”

      • cobackcountry says:

        I was not limiting the scope to a gene pool. I am talking about efforts toward conservation over all.

        To what extent have we altered the wolf population in that region? How long would it have taken the wolves or gene pool to decline if we had no impact over all?

        There have been wolves that have reached the area without our assistance. So, do we let nature take it’s course?

        If we are to contribute genetic diversity, how much do we do that? How long? To what end?

        The problem is not isolated to this isle, or to wolves. The problem is how we regulate and perceive conservation, wildlife, resources and our ethical obligation to our environment.

        While it is difficult to ask “What do we do about the Isle Royale wolves?”, it is a hell of a lot easier than asking “How do we fix the system by which we assure the natural balance remains as untouched as possible while keeping nature preserved for future generations?”

  19. Jeff Smith says:

    For wilderness to continue we need to do as Howard Zahniser, author of the Wilderness Act says: we need to be guardians, not gardeners of wilderness. We have to protect what Stegner calls “the idea of wilderness,” that these are the only place left where nature guides us, not the other way around. Stegner hoped these would remain self-willed lands, “a scientific yardstick by which we may measure the world in its natural balance against the world in its man-made imbalance.” It calls for great humility, but let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014 by not intervening, as tempting as that always is.

    • WM says:

      ++…let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014 by not intervening…++

      I think Stegner was living in a less complicated world, not overshadowed by climate change, and let’s remember IR is a national park too, one which had seen human caused change even before it was designated as such. Leaving IR alone doesn’t leave it a better place in my view – Wilderness Act or not.

      That is why the alternate futures for wolves and moose on IR need a full blown EIS to examine impacts of each under full light.

      • cobackcountry says:

        I agree. Furthermore, we can cultivate the means by which nature can balance its’ self. We cannot and should not overlook the damage we have caused. We most certainly need to account for, and appropriate what remedies we can to stopping and aiding in the heeling from what havoc is caused by us.

        Like nature, Wilderness Conservation needs to evolve to fit the habitat in which is exists.

  20. snaildarter says:

    You could say the same thing about Yellowstone NP its a lot bigger Island but not big enough to be a complete eco-system. And a lot of locals go crazy when you start talking about the Greater Yellowstone Eco-system. But Wolves, bears and Bison need more land than the park provides. Isle Royale is a small closed system so its problems show up after 50 years but fragmentation of species is a problem everywhere.

  21. Brian Tennant says:

    It’s a no-brainer. The hand of man already intervened when 3 wolves drowned in 2012 in an unsecured old mine shaft on Isle Royale. I have tromped all over Isle Royale in the past 15 years and finally saw a wolf in 2012–it was radio-collared and yes–turned out to be “Romeo”, one of the ill-fated 3 that drowned later that year. I never felt cheated not seeing a wolf on IR; just knowing they were there enhanced my WILDERNESS experience. If researchers, like Rolf Peterson, who have dedicated part of their lives and risked life and limb during the Wolf Winter Study program advocate a genetic rescue–I am all for it.

    • Brian Tennant says:

      My mistake–I saw the radio-collared wolf in Sept. of 2011 and the Park researchers theorized the 3 drowned wolves fell into a flooded mine shaft sometime late 2011 or early 2012–the discovery was not made until May 2012.

    • Immer Treue says:


  22. snaildarter says:

    I like to back up a second a give plug for the Wilderness act. It was and is a great idea. But to me true Wilderness is not missing parts because of human activity. Lots of places have been designated “Wilderness” to keep out roads, park development, and logging and some of these areas could be improved by carefully undoing human foley.


September 2013


‎"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."

~ Edward Abbey