Isle Royale National Park
appears to have only three
 wolves remaining, a disturbing
 decline. The end of
 the world’s largest, continuous
 predator-prey study
 is near, according to the 57th
 annual Wolf-Moose
Project conducted this past winter
 by Michigan
Technological University researchers.
John Vucetich, the project leader and renowned
wolf scientist, said he would not be surprised if
 no wolves are found on the island next winter,
 because their numbers have been depleted
 by years of inbreeding.
Disturbing, too, has been the bureaucratic
response of the National Park Service, which is
waiting to do an environmental assessment of
Isle Royale that could delay a final decision on
 the wolf population for two or three years. The
 wolves don’t have that long to wait.
Wolves play an important role in the ecosystem
 by keeping the island’s moose population in check
. With the drop in predation, moose numbers have
doubled in recent years, threatening the island’s
forests. Researchers are concerned that as the
 moose population grows, long-term damage
will occur to the island’s vegetation. An ecosystem
 that once had a strong balance of predator and
prey has been thrown out of whack.
There are two options, according to the researchers.
 One would be to reintroduce wolves to Isle Royale
 to get more genetic diversity and encourage
healthier breeding. The other option, which the
 National Park Service seems to be taking, is to
do nothing and let nature take its course. The
 underlying problem with that option is that global
warming has already altered the landscape by
 diminishing the regular ice bridges that allowed
the wolves to populate the island more than five
 decades ago. In other words, we’re dealing with
 a different nature now, and adjustments must
 be made.
During the debate over wolf hunting during last
November’s election, proponents for the trophy
hunting of wolves cited trumped-up statistics of
wolf-livestock conflicts and even made up false
stories out of whole cloth about wolf encounters
 that didn’t happen. Michigan voters saw through
the political rhetoric and distortions and decided
in overwhelming numbers to protect wolves from
 trophy hunters and prevent the unelected Natural
 Resources Commission from declaring them a
species that could be hunted and trapped.
Michigan voters from all regions of the state said
 they want common-sense wolf protection policies
. We can achieve that, and still provide relief to
farmers and ranchers and deal with the occasional
problem wolf. That’s why Keep Michigan Wolves
Protected, the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Audubon and
the Humane Society of the United States have
petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list
 the Great Lakes wolves as a threatened species,
 rather than endangered, to give state agencies
 the tools to remove the rare wolf that poses a
 threat to farm animals or human safety.
We have also put forth a proposal that would
 allow capturing wolves on Michigan’s mainland
and releasing them on Isle Royale, where there
are no farm animals or year-round human residents
. An augmented wolf population, infused with new
 genetic material, would help control moose numbers
, thus protecting the forests and helping to restore
the ecological balance on Isle Royale.
Wolves also provide an enormous economic and
ecological benefit to the Great Lakes region. People
 will trek to wolf-inhabited forests precisely because
 they are there, boosting tourism-related commerce.
 Wolves also limit deer and moose populations,
depressing crop depredation and shrinking the
 number of collisions between these animals and
cars. Through their killing of weak, sick, and older
 deer and moose, beavers, and other animals, they
 have a broad, balancing and beneficial impact on
It’s time for the National Park Service to recognize
 the valuable role that wolves play in our ecosystem
 and help restore their population on Isle Royale.
And it’s time for Michigan lawmakers to recognize
that the people have spoken and we need common-
sense solutions for wolf management.
Jill Fritz is director of Keep Michigan Wolves