Isle Royale wolf population decline affecting entire island

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Inbreeding is wreaking havoc on the wolf population at Isle Royale National Park. That’s according to John Vucetich, head of a decades-old study of the predator/prey relationship between the island’s wolves and moose.

Vucetich says the number of wolves has dwindled to nine. He says “inbreeding depression” — or the decreased ability of a population to survive and reproduce because of inbreeding — has drastically reduced the wolves’ predation rate and allowed the moose population to double.

Vucetich says this is the point where scientists must ask themselves what the purpose of a protected area is.

“And if the purpose of a protected area is to maintain ecosystem health, then you might come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to bring a few wolves from the mainland to Isle Royale,” Vucetich said. “And the purpose of that would be to mitigate the negative effects of inbreeding depression.”

Vucetich says an overabundance of moose on the island threatens its vegetation supply.

Isle Royale officials are planning a two- to three-year study of the problem.

This story was provided by Nicole Walton of MPRN member station WNMU-FM.