Michigan’s Isle Royale wolves: Area probably down to a single wolf

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DETROIT — Isle Royale may be down to a lone wolf, as the federal government ponders whether it will replenish the pack on the northern Michigan Island.

For the last two years, a male and female wolf have held on as the last remaining pair of wolves on the 893-square-mile island national park in Lake Superior. The pair were spotted in the summer of 2016, on the motion-triggered trail camera of Michigan Technological University wolf researcher Rolf Peterson, and again in Michigan Tech’s annual winter survey of the island last January.

But the survival story appears to have taken a turn this summer.

“I wasn’t able to confirm two wolves,” said Peterson. “We did confirm one wolf with a trail camera, but we didn’t get any definitive evidence of the presence of both wolves this summer.”

Source: Michigan’s Isle Royale wolves: Area probably down to a single wolf

Michigan Wolf management a back-and-forth battle 

denaliwolfeye-2-300x200-2-300x200-1-300x200-300x200-2-300x200-1-300x200-2-300x200-2-300x200-1-300x200-2-300x200-2-300x200-300x200-4-300x200-2-300x200-2In the serve-and-volley process of managing wolves in Michigan and the Western Great Lakes region, the ball is once again in a federal court.

Last week, according to the Sportsmen’s Alliance, its lawyers and those of the Michigan DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies and groups presented oral arguments in an appeal of an earlier ruling on Great Lakes wolf management.

The December 2014 decision in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in a suit brought by the Humane Society of the United States, found that until wolves were deemed recovered throughout their entire historic range, virtually the entire United States, they could not be removed from national Endangered Species Act listing.

FWS had found wolves no longer endangered or threatened in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and delisted them in 2012, placing their management in state hands. The federal court ruled that delisting in error and returned management to the federal government.

Once Michigan natives, wolves had practically vanished by the early 1960s, the DNR said, battered by bounties, food shortages and other pressures.

Reintroduction failed, but by the 1980s a few animals wandered into the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario.

A couple of decades later the population eclipsed the FWS-established combined goal for Michigan and Wisconsin of 100 animals. Michigan managers had set their own goal of 200 wolves — a mark met for five straight years and now tripled. Almost all are in the UP, a few in the Lower Peninsula.

The reestablished wolves alarmed UP residents, killed pets and farm livestock, and are blamed by hunters and others for heavy predation of wildlife, especially white-tailed deer. The FWS de-listing seemed to offer management options.

Then came the federal court ruling.

State officials, a revised wolf management plan on their desks and a first-and-only successful wolf hunt in the books, found their hands once again tied. They and other agencies and groups sought to have the district court ruling overturned.

(Meanwhile, between the FWS de-listing in 2012 and the U.S. District Court ruling, Michigan voters removed wolves from the game species list and withdrew Michigan Natural Resources Commission power to designate game species and hunting seasons — both measures rendered moot by a citizen ballot issue vesting those authorities in the NRC, passed by the Legislature. The federal court decision trumped all those measures.)

That ruling, said Sportsmen’s Alliance president Evan Heusinkveld in a news release last week, means, “it doesn’t matter that wolf numbers in the Great Lakes states are two or three times higher than the recovery goals adopted by the federal government in the 1990s.”

“The ruling by the lower court means that until wolves are found in Chicago, Seattle and New York, (they) cannot be managed appropriately by state wildlife experts in the Great Lakes states.”

Besides state and federal officials and the Sportsmen’s Alliance, groups joining the appeal included the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, Safari Club International, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, National Rifle Association, and Wisconsin Bowhunters Association.

Wolf numbers changed little across the last two years, the DNR’s wildlife division reported, with at least 618 in the UP this year, Kevin Swanson, with the DNR’s Bear and Wolf Program, said in a news release last summer. That’s despite tumbling numbers there of deer, a main wolf food source.

Michigan’s 2008 wolf management plan, updated in 2015, would allow use of lethal means — killing wolves — to control a limited number of the animals each year where conflicts had occurred. Michigan law had also allowed citizens to kill wolves actively preying on their hunting dogs or livestock.

There have been legislative efforts to delist the wolf in the Great Lakes region, and DNR wildlife chief Russ Mason said in a news release earlier this year he’d welcome either legislative or judicial delisting of wolves, Otherwise, “We have limited (wolf) management options available to us at this time.”

A ruling in the appeal could come as early as the end of the year, the Sportsmen’s Alliance said.

Source: Wolf management a back-and-forth battle – Midland Daily News

Wolves on Isle Royale ‘most certainly headed for extinction

 

Feds waited to long to prevent their extinctionHad Federal officials been proactive versus reactive, this Wolf Population could have been maintained.

The wolf population on Isle Royale is “most certainly headed for extinction.” That’s the prognosis from researchers at Michigan Technological University, which put out its annual look at how the wolves (and moose) on the island are doing. Isle Royale is located in Lake Superior, about 15 miles from the very northeast tip of Minnesota, up by Grand Portage. In the 1940s, wolves crossed an ice bridge from mainland Ontario on to the island, establishing their presence there for the first time. But now the Isle Royale wolf population is on the verge of dying off. Just 2 wolves left At the start of 2015, there were three wolves on the island. That number has likely dropped to two, according to a news release about the newest survey. The two wolves still on the island are believed to be adults, one male and one female, and both born from the same mother (so half-siblings) – but the male is also believed to be the father of the female. As researchers put it, “any offspring from this pair would be extremely inbred and probably non-viable.” They’re between 6 and 8 years old, and for comparison, the university’s news release notes the average lifespan for Isle Royale wolves is about 4 years. During winter surveys, nobody actually saw live wolves, but they did note fresh tracks and hear the howling of, at most, two wolves. There was also no evidence the wolves had reproduced, according to the report. What happened to the wolves? Inbreeding The “crash,” as the university puts it, is likely the result of that genetic inbreeding, like what’s seen in the two current wolf occupants. Peak population came in about 1980, when it was pegged at about 50 – it very quickly dropped down toward 10, and for awhile fluctuated around 10-20. But since 2009, when researchers counted 24, the population has plummeted. From 2014 to 2015, six of the nines wolves on the island at the time died – the reason still isn’t known, the university’s report notes. Genetic rescue is pretty much a wasted effort at this point, the study says, and if wolves are going to live on Isle Royale, it’ll likely have to happen with a re-establishment. The National Park Service last month said it would stop considering a variety of population management plans, and instead focus on one question: whether to bring wolves to the island in the short-term, and if so, how to best do that. Why bring wolves back? Because of moose It would be about balancing the ecosystem. At the same time wolf numbers have fallen, the moose population has shot up – it’s now at about 1,300 and expected to keep increasing, the university’s news release says. That’s because wolves acted as a natural population control. Without wolves, the moose numbers will continue to climb – which then impacts the vegetation on Isle Royale, possibly damaging the forestation. “Concerns remain that the upcoming increase in moose abundance will result in long-term damage to the health of Isle Royale’s vegetative community,” the report says. The Isle Royale work is part of the longest running predator-prey study in the world, the university says. Part of the reason the island was valued is because it was a completely natural laboratory for study, the report says. Humans do not hunt wolves or moose on the land, and do no forest management. You can keep up with the project at the Isle Royale Wolf website.

Source: Wolves on Isle Royale ‘most certainly headed for extinction’ – BringMeTheNews.com

Researchers: Too late to save current Isle Royale wolves 

Isle Royal Wolves left alone to long

ROYL0405c3 — Wolves in Rock Harbor, Isle Royale in 2009.

The longest running predator-prey study in the world revealed Tuesday that “the time has passed” to save the nearly extinct wolves on Isle Royale by introducing a process called genetic rescue.

Only two wolves remain on the Lake Superior island, said Michigan Technological University scientists Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich in their report, and the idea of introducing new breeding wolves “represents a misunderstanding of the underlying genetic processes,” they said in a news release about what has been a 58-year study of the wolves and moose on the island.

Peterson and Vucetich had previously been among the most ardent supporters of genetic rescue. They counted three wolves in the same study a year ago.

“Last year there was every reason to believe wolves were destined for extinction and moose are destined to grow rapidly in the near future,” Vucetich said in the news release. “This year, we did not observe anything to make us think that circumstance has changed.”

Source: Researchers: Too late to save current Isle Royale wolves | Duluth News Tribune

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