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It May Be Too Late for Isle Royale Wolves

posted: 04/21/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Three Gray wolves stand in snow. Canis lupus.
Jeff Foott/DCI

A new study from Michigan Tech reveals that it is likely too late to resuscitate the dwindling wolf population on Isle Royale, the site of the world's longest-running ecological study of the predator-prey relationship between wolves and moose.

Only three wolves remain on the island, and the population has long been falling victim to the effects of inbreeding. It is believed that two of the remaining wolves gave birth to the third, which suffers from a "constricted waistline, hunched posture and seems to have a deformed tail", according to the study.

"It would not be surprising if the pup was dead a year from today," remarked study lead author John Vucetich.

Wolves traveling onto the island over ice bridges used to infuse fresh genetic material into the small wolf population. In recent decades, noticeably fewer ice bridges have formed; the most recent major introduction of new genetic material occurred in 1997. While two foreign wolves were spotted on the island this winter, they left after a week for unknown reasons.

With decidedly fewer predators, the moose population is surging, having grown 22% for each of the past four years. Researchers fear that vegetation on the island could be irreparably damaged by the abundant moose population.

Click here to read the full news release from Michigan Tech

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