The Canadian Press
Six wolves at risk of dying of starvation successfully have been moved off a Northern Ontario island to one on the U.S. side of Lake Superior.
A contracted capture crew and Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry performed the operation on Friday and Saturday, taking the wolves from Michipicoten Island to Michigan’s Isle Royale.
The Canadian-U.S. team also moved over one wolf from Ontario’s mainland.
“The Michipicoten wolves were in poor condition,” said Isle Royale National Park superintendent Phyllis Green.
“It was pretty much their last chance.”
The Michipicoten wolves were at risk because the caribou they had preyed on for years either had been killed off or largely had been moved off the island in two separate operations last year.
In those moves, the province, with the help of the Michipicoten First Nation, transported a total of 15 caribou off the island.
Nine went to the Slate Islands and, after pressure from the First Nation, six more were moved to Caribou Island–both in Lake Superior.
That was a last-ditch effort to save a once-thriving caribou herd–a population that numbered at 700 after starting with just eight animals back in 1982. It had been a ministry conservation success story.
Things changed, however, when the wolves arrived on the island via an ice bridge formed in the winter of 2014.
By last winter, few caribou remained before they were moved away.
“They basically have outstanding hunting skills, given their demolishment of the caribou herd,” Green said of the wolves, adding she’s thrilled to have the new pack in her park.
They join two others that were captured from Michipicoten last month.
Isle Royale currently is trying to grow its decimated wolf population that had dwindled to two: a father-daughter-half-sibling inbred pair. The wolves are an important part of the longest-running predator-prey study in the world, which officials hope to continue.
There is an overabundance of moose now on Isle Royale, numbering about 1,500 Green noted.
That population long was held in check by the wolves.
“The Michipicoten wolves face a lot tougher prey species in the form of a moose but between their skills and genetics, they are an extremely welcome addition to Isle Royale National Park,” Green said.
There are 15 wolves on the U.S. island now: the two native wolves, two Minnesota wolves brought in last fall, eight from Michipicoten, and three wolves from Ontario’s mainland not far from Michipicoten First Nation.