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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, December 19, 2016

1200 Moose on Isle Royale, Michigan with just two Wolves has the National Park Service stepping up it's consideration of releasing up to 30 new Wolves into the longest studied Wolf/Moose ecosystem in North America...............While once a Lynx/Caribou predator and prey environment, both of these species blinked out on the island in the early 20th century with the first Wolves likely "snowshoeing" across Lake Superior in the 1940's...........As recently as 2009, 24 Wolves called the island home but warming temperatures has prevented Lake Superior from freezing for most of the past decade leading to no new wolves coming onto the island............ Thus, inbreeding and resulting deformities have doomed the Wolves presence here unless this restoration occurs............With the swollen Moose population present, most researchers feel that the historical balance of predator/prey and flora will be seriously compromised if Wolf restoration does not take place soon..........."What counts are paws on the ground," said Rolf Peterson, a research professor who has been part of the annual wolf survey done on the island by Michigan Tech for 46 years"................. "But he said he wants to read the 183-page study put out by the Park Service more carefully before coming to a conclusion whether it is enough to protect the wolf population over the long term"

More wolves for Isle Royale?

John Vucetich/Michigan Technological University via AP, File
 In this Feb. 24, 2006 file photo released by Michigan Technological University, a gray wolf is shown on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan. Officials are considering taking up to 30 wolves to the Lake Superior island, where only two inbred wolves remain. A report obtained by The Associated Press says the National Park Service is leaning toward relocating as many as 30 gray wolves there from the mainland within three years.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Managers are leaning toward relocating as many as 30 gray wolves to Isle Royale National Park from the mainland to restore an iconic predator species on the verge of disappearing from the Lake Superior island chain, according to a federal report released Friday.
Other options include taking up to 15 wolves to the wilderness park in the short term and adding others over 20 years, or doing nothing immediately while keeping the door open for replenishing their numbers later. Also under consideration is simply letting nature take its course. That probably would doom the Michigan park’s wolf population, which has plummeted in recent years and now consists of just two inbred survivors.

The population totaled 24 as recently as 2009.
The choices are outlined in a draft environmental impact report crafted by National Park Service scientists, other staffers and outside consultants. Administrators will make a decision after a 90-day comment period that ends March 15, Isle Royale Superintendent Phyllis Green said.
Wolves have a relatively short history on Isle Royale, where other species such as caribou and lynx lived for considerably longer periods before dying out. Scientists believe the first wolves arrived in the late 1940s, having traversed the frozen lake surface 15 miles or more from Minnesota or the Canadian province of Ontario.
Yet visitors are enthralled when an elusive wolf darts across a backwoods trail or a distant howl breaks the silence of a starry night. Many campers have argued passionately for maintaining their presence — even if it means tinkering with nature, which wilderness purists frown upon. The wolves, along with the island’s abundant moose, are also the subjects of the world’s longest-running biological study of a predator-prey relationship in a closed environment.
Officials said the wolves’ popularity, while important, won’t be the deciding factor. Nor can their fate be considered in a vacuum. Managers must determine how best to care for the island’s overall health as climate change ­introduces new uncertainties about the future of its plants and animals, said Nancy Finley, natural resources director for the park service’s Central region.
“If it was the last wolf on Earth, it might be a different situation,” Finley said. “But in this case, it’s about managing a unique island ecosystem and determining the role the wolf has in that ecosystem, and how it plays out over time.”
The wolf population has averaged in the low 20s, divided among several packs. They have staked out territories in different sections of the 45-mile-long park, which includes a main island and hundreds of little ones.
Scientists believe other wolves occasionally have wandered over during cold winters, helping refresh the gene pool. Even so, inbreeding has caused health problems, which likely worsened as a warming climate enabled ice bridges to form less frequently. That underscores the need for intervention if the wolves are to be saved, the report said.
Meanwhile, moose numbers are rising steadily and exceed 1,200. Without a predator to keep them in check, they could damage the island’s trees and have periodic population crashes.
Of the four options in the report, the park service’s tentative preference is for capturing 20-30 wolves on the mainland and taking them to Isle Royale by aircraft or boat within three years. Additional wolves could be supplied for the next two years in the event of an unexpected setback, such as a significant die-off among the new arrivals.
That approach would provide the quickest benefit to the park’s natural systems and limit the human disturbance that wolf relocation would cause, as opposed to the alternative of starting with six to 15 wolves and bringing more later.
But officials will keep an open mind and could decide differently after hearing from the public, Green said.
“We have to go beyond loving wolves to understand their complexities … how they function in the wild and their relationship with the ecosystem around them,” she said.
Rolf Peterson, a retired Michigan Tech University biologist who has studied the park’s wolves and moose since 1970, said he was pleased the park service appeared to endorse wolf recovery and “getting paws on the ground” quickly, but was puzzled that its preferred option rules out relocating wolves to the island after five years.
“That ties your hands if things unravel in year eight or year 12,” he said.
The National Parks Conservation Association, a nonprofit advocacy group, also supports wolf relocation, said Christine Goepfert, senior program manager for the Midwest.
“It’s really important to have an apex predator, a species at the top of the food chain,” she said.

Isle Royale may add 20-30 wolves to keep pack from disappearing

WASHINGTON — The National Park Service  put forward a draft plan Friday to release 20 to 30 new wolves on Isle Royale over a three-year period as a way to bolster a population on the remote Lake Superior island that has dwindled to just two and is in danger of vanishing altogether.
If the Park Service — which for more than a year has been looking at the fading Isle Royale wolf population and a moose herd that has swelled to 1,300 with its main predator in decline — follows through, it could quickly revive a closed ecosystem on the rugged 45-mile-long island protected from hunting and existing largely outside of human interference.

But it could also stir up concerns that the Park Service, in an attempt to address climate change and warmer winters that have in recent years reduced ice bridges to the island — in turn halting natural wolf migration from Canada — is setting a precedent that some environmental groups believe violates the federal Wilderness Act’s requirement that lands remain “untrammeled” by human intervention.
The draft plan  recognized the dichotomy inherent in the Park Service's mission on Isle Royale, saying the proposed action will help to restore the natural order on the island by reintroducing an "apex predator" but noting it also results in "substantial impacts to (the island's) wilderness character overall because of the intentional manipulation of the ... environment." The proposal also calls for monitoring wolves placed on the island by radio collar.
“This is about more than wolves,” said Phyllis Green, superintendent of Isle Royale National Park, which takes up virtually all of the island located 55 miles across Lake Superior from the Upper Peninsula and is closed from November to April. “It’s about the entire park ecosystem and where it is heading in the future with changing conditions.”
She called it “a complex issue to address.”
It's also one the Park Service has been accused of delaying far longer than was necessary.
For more than six years, researchers — especially those at Michigan Technological University in Houghton who have kept alive an annual report on the wolves and moose of Isle Royale and their interactions since the late 1950s — have been warning that the wolf pack, which included as many as 19 wolves in 2010, was on the decline, largely due to inbreeding and genetic deficiencies.
Those researchers and others, including those at the National Parks Conservation Association, which advocates for the parks, called for a reintroduction of wolves to bolster the herd, arguing that the annual study — which has produced insights into topics from arthritis to air pollution — is too valuable to lose and that a moose herd that isn't threatened will do great ecological damage before dying out themselves.
As proposed, the preferred plan "would attempt to re-establish the wolf population in the shortest amount of time," the study said. But it specifically rejects any plan to add more wolves after five years, despite an alternative proposal, also under consideration, to add wolves more slowly over 20 years — a plan that while perhaps adding longer-term stability to the pack may not prevent the overall loss of the population in the nearer future and would lengthen the Park Service's direct intervention on what some believe should be untouched wilderness.
"What counts are paws on the ground," said Rolf Peterson, a research professor who has been part of the annual wolf survey done on the island by Michigan Tech for 46 years. But he said he wants to read the 183-page study put out by the Park Service more carefully before coming to a conclusion whether it is enough to protect the wolf population over the long term.
"Why do it once and then wash your hands of it? I want to read about that — I want to get into the weeds and see what they're really saying," he said.
In the most recent report last April, Michigan Tech’s researchers found evidence of only two gray wolves — believed to be a male and his daughter — as the last remaining members of the species on the island.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who has made a couple of trips to the remote island and last year, with his colleague Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., had urged the Park Service to move more quickly in addressing concerns about the Isle Royale wolves, said he was pleased with the release of the draft plan.
"The wolves are a part of Isle Royale’s heritage, but I commend the Park Service for also recognizing the critical role of an apex predator to the entire Isle Royale ecosystem," he said, adding that he's committed  to working with the scientific community, wilderness groups and others to ensure public input is taken into account as the plan moves forward.
Kevin Proescholdt, conservation director for the group Wilderness Watch in Minneapolis, noted his organization's objection to any interference and said it would continue to work with its members to get the Park Service to reconsider before making a final decision sometime next year.
"It's not a fait accompli," he said, adding that he was disappointed the Park Service "hasn't given a higher priority to the wilderness designation at Isle Royale" that argues against human manipulation of the natural forces there.
Christine Goepfert, senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association's Midwest Region, said reintroduction of wolves to Isle Royale is the "right call."
"In the absence of a predator, the moose population will continue to grow, which could devastate the island native vegetation, eliminating their food source as well as that of other species on the island. Through this analysis, the Park Service clearly illustrates the critical role wolves play in the park’s ecosystem," Goepfert said.

Under the plan,   the Park Service is releasing a draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, that recognizes the “natural recovery of the (wolf) population is unlikely” and describes as its “preferred alternative” the plan to reintroduce 20 to 30 new wolves onto the island over the course of three years, though that could be stretched to five years if necessary.
With the issuance of the EIS, the Park Service will accept public comments on the plan until March 15.  A final plan would then be issued sometime in mid to late 2017, with a “record of decision” formalizing approval coming after that. The draft EIS is open for public review and comment at
The draft EIS contains other potential alternatives as well that could be considered, including one in which no action would be taken and the other in which 6 to 15 wolves would be introduced on the island immediately with the potential for more over a 20-year period.
A third alternative would allow for continued monitoring but make no decision at this point whether to put more wolves on the island.
Park Service officials also expect to hold public meetings on the proposal in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, though no dates, times or locations have been finalized.

1 comment:

Dave Messineo said...

I am wondering why public meetings are being held in neighboring states....restocking wolves on Isle Royale won't impact them. It seems that hearings should be held all over the US because Isle Royale is as much ours as the nearby states.

It seems similar to allowing the surrounding states to dictate policy in Yellowstone and other national lands.

I see this as symptomatic of the policies of the National Parks, National Forests and BLM that are moving closer and closer to state control of these lands...indeed many of these lands are now de facto controlled locally or the management influenced by local interests