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MI: Hiker finds first big pawprint from new wolves released on Michigan’s Isle Royale

By Tanda Gmiter

ISLE ROYALE, MI – Now that the fall phase of the National Park Service’s first wolf relocation effort on Isle Royale has ended, some cool stories are starting to emerge about the four new wolves roaming the remote island in northern Lake Superior.

The three new females and one male wolf were trapped in Minnesota and brought over as part of a plan to bolster the island’s dwindling predator population with up to 30 new wolves in the next few years.

Isle Royale used to have multiple wolf packs that helped keep its moose population in check. But in recent years, the island’s wolf numbers have fallen to just two – a very inter-related pair that cannot have viable offspring.

The National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tribal officials and others worked to plan this fall’s first wolf relocations. The trapping and transporting began in late September and ended in mid-October, when poor weather conditions halted the efforts. One captured wolf died before it could be taken to the island and released.

“Animal welfare is the primary concern,” said Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green. “The continued cold weather, which created safety issues for trapping, and high winds and waves in the marine forecast which created additional issues for transportation, led to the decision to end this phase of the project a little early.”

“The park and its partners in this project are already looking at the next phases of the translocation process, which may include relocating wolves from Canada this winter.”

Earlier this month, as the newest wolves were settling in, a hiker snapped a picture of a large wolf pawprint that was described as “possibly the first visitor report” of a sign of the new predators.

Eric Comp, who worked as a cook this season at the island’s Rock Harbor Lodge, described the find as the highlight of his summer, according to researchers from Michigan Tech University who are part of a decades-long study on the predator-prey balance there.