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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, February 17, 2014

So we have Wolf pups on Isle Royale and virtually a full Lake Superior ice bridge connecting Royale and Ontario...Will Wolves cross into Isle Royale or will some leave the Island for Ontario?...........Even with pups on the ground on the island, is inbreeding going to sink their population into oblivion?..........We have heavyweight biologists weighing in on both sides of the question as to whether for us humans to physically add wolves to the island,,,,,,,,,,,,David Mech saids no to intervention feeling that somehow the Wolves will rally on their own despite the high odds of inbreeding ................John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson, the resident island Wolf researchers are in favor of inserting new Wolves into the population feeling that we have upset the Wolf/Moose dynamic due to Climate change.....................What will the National Park Service decide to do?

The full Article, with any associated images and links can be viewed here.
Bitter winter, pup survival alter Isle Royale wolf debate
Josephine Marcotty, Star Tribune

It���s only February, and already it���s been 
an extraordinary
 winter for the wolves of Isle Royale.At least two new 
healthy pups,
 and perhaps three, have survived their first perilous
months of life
 ��� proof that the famous wolves, which number
 less than a 
dozen, may not be dwindling after all.

And twice this winter, the bitter cold that has halted
 shipping across 
Lake Superior has also created temporary ice 
bridges across the
 20-mile channel between Isle Royale and the 
mainland, raising the tantalizing possibility that 
once again wolves
 could either leave the island or arrive on their
 own four feet.

Both developments are likely to only confound 
a precedent-setting
 decision that faces the National Park Service: 
whether to intervene
 in nature���s course and bring new wolves
 onto the island in an
 effort to preserve them and the critical balance 
between the predators
 and their primary prey, moose. Conservationists 
say the decision
 could establish new policy on managing critical 
species in national
 parks everywhere and even change the definition 
of wilderness as
 a place where only nature is allowed to rule.

The wolves, which once numbered as many as 50,
 are at their lowest
 ebb since researchers first began tracking them 
in the 1950s and are
 closely followed by naturalists all over the world. 
Scientists running 
the Isle Royale wolf study today, from Michigan 
Technological University 
say they fear that even with the new pups, they 
could die out, largely as
 a result of inbreeding.

At best, the new pups ���might extend the 
amount of time the 
population can bump along,��� said Rolf 
Peterson, who has been
 studying the wolves and moose along with
 John Vucetich for years.

In a series of e-mails sent from the island this
 week, Peterson said
 that even now the number of wolv!es is to  
small to keep the moose
 population in check and the forest ecosystem
 in balance. Since 2006, 
moose numbers have more than doubled to
 nearly 1,000. That���s
 far less than their peak of nearly 2,500 more
 than 30 years ago, but
 the rate of growth is dramatic. The huge 
mammals depend on 
balsam firs, one of the primary species of
on the island, as
 a major part of their diet. If they eat too 
many, then other trees
 would take over and, in the long run, neither
 wolves or moose
 would survive.

But other wolf experts disagree, including
 David Mech, a wolf expert 
with the U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota.
 Mech said that the
 wolves��� population is perilously low,
 but that it has bounced
 back before, and that the pups are evidence
 that it can again. 
Many of the wolves, he said, are only now at
 the best age for 
breeding, and this year could see even more 
and larger litters,
 he said. Those wolves are not nonreproductive,
��� he said
. ���In another year or two they could 
produce some more.���

In the meantime, scientists say they provide
valuable information
 on reproduction, genetics and ecology. This
 week, the prestigious
 journal Nature weighed in with an editorial.
���A declining island wolf population
 underlines the influence
 that humans have on nature,��� it read.
 It points out that the
 whole system is ���highly artificial.��� 
Wolves and moose
 have been on the island less than 100 years,
 and in the 1980s
 the wolf population was nearly wiped out by 
canine parvovirus, 
an infection likely brought to the island by 
someone���s pet.
 (Dogs are no longer allowed.)

Meanwhile, climate change ��� also caused
 by humans ��� 
is greatly reducing the chances for the ice bridges
 that brought wolves
 to the island in the first place, it said.
Once a near seasonal event, the bridges have 
become increasi!ngly
 rare. The last one formed in 2008, when two wolves
 collared with
 tracking devices disappeared, perhaps to the 
mainland. The last
 bridge before that was in 1997, when a wolf 
named ���Old Gray
 Guy��� appeared on the island and went
 on to sire dozens of 
puppies, providing an infusion of new genes 
that researchers credit 
with saving the population from demise.
This year satellite images show that two 
bridges have formed and 
then been broken again by wind, the latest 
in early February, said

Meanwhile, as humans fret about the wolves
��� survival and
 the meaning of wilderness, Isabelle waits.
 She is, literally, a lone 
wolf on Isle Royale and a prime candidate to
 mate with a new arrival, 
should one come, or take off across an ice 
bridge, researchers said.
Isabelle was born in 2008 to one of the two
 packs on the island, but,
 as wolves often do, left the pack in 2012 
to find a mate. The
 pickings are few ��� and all the males 
are related to her.
 That inhibits mating in wolves as well as
 people, Peterson said.

In addition, lone wolves are vulnerable to
 attacks from breeding 
packs in the relentless competition for the 
right to reproduce. 
Because she wears a tracking collar, the 
researchers have been 
able to follow her lonely and persecuted life. 
Last year they saw 
three other wolves chase her to the edge
 of the water and attack 
her with all the ferocity they use to bring 
down a 900-pound
 moose. They left her wounded and bleeding 
on the edge of the
 ice. When the researchers left last winter, 
they weren���t 
sure if they would see her again.
���But she has survived,��� Vucetich
 announced on 
the research study���s blog in late 
January. ���It would 
not be surprising if she���s learned
to kill moose by herself. 
A wolf that can do so is better than most.���

Isabelle is now 5, a prime age t!o mate. About 
one in 10 wolves will
 strike off on their own and try to start new packs,
 and some will
 travel for hundreds of miles in their search. On 
Isle Royale, however
, the wolves are trapped ��� unless there is
 an ice bridge.

No one knows what���s in the heart of a wolf,
 but Peterson said
 he thinks it���s quite possible, that given the
 chance, Isabelle
 will head out. Mech said that as long as there 
are potential mates
 on the island, she���s more likely to stay put.

The chances that a wolf would come from the
 mainland are also
 very small, researchers said. It���s known
 to have happened 
only three times in the island���s history. 
And today mainland 
wolves face a treacherous path across roads,
 yards and urban 
areas ��� never mind 20 miles of shifting ice.

Still, the survival of the three pups and the 
renewed possibility of 
ice bridges may have bought the National
 Park Service some time.
 Phyllis Green, park superintendent, is 
weighing three options:
 doing nothing, reintroducing wolves if their 
numbers hit zero or
 a ���genetic rescue��� by bringing
a few new wolves to 
mate with those that are in residence.

Peterson and Vucetich said they favor
 genetic rescue. And
 Isabelle, if she had a vote, would likely agree.
Josephine Marcotty ��� 612-673-7394

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