(KMSP) - The National Park Service announced Thursday it will introduce between 20 and 30 wolves to Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior over the next the next three years.
Wolves are not native to Isle Royale; scientists believe ice bridges in the winter enabled the first wolves to find the island 75 years ago. At their peak in 1980, 50 or so wolves roamed Isle Royale. Today, only two non-breeding wolves remain to hunt the more than 1,400 moose on the island.
The wolf population on Isle Royale has steeply declined in the last five years. Scientists and the NPS have determined the wolf population was unlikely to recover on its own and human intervention is needed to protect the ecosystem.
After evaluating several alternatives, the NPS has decided to introduce 20 to 30 wolves with a wide genetic diversity to the island. After three years, if needed, more wolves may be introduced. After five years, no additional wolves will be brought to the island.
“The selected alternative will introduce the historical average number of wolves on Isle Royale in an effort to have immediate effects on the island moose population, while minimizing impacts to the untrammeled quality of wilderness over the course of the planning period,” NPS said in their report.
The wolves will be captured primarily from the Great Lakes region during the fall and winter using tools ranging from helicopter net-gunning, modified padded foot-traps, darting from a helicopter and modified snares. Once the wolves are determined to be good candidates for introduction, they will be released on Isle Royale as quickly as possible to limit the amount of time they spend with humans.
At a press conference, NPS said it plans to start capturing and evaluating the wolves for introduction as soon as possible. Officials hope to begin releasing wolves on the island this fall.