Relocating wolves to Isle Royale

October 1, 2018

Two wolves, a four-year-old female and a five-year-old male, were recently moved from the Grand Portage Indian Reservation to Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aircraft. This translocation project aims to restore wolves to balance the island ecosystem.

Tiffany Wolf, DVM, ’15 PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, conducted the health examination of the two wolves for the translocation. The project is a collaboration among the U.S. National Park Service, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, and U.S. Geological Survey.

Both wolves received medical examinations by Wolf and National Park Service wildlife veterinarian Michelle Verant, '10 DVM, '12 MPH, before they were transported. Both were found to be healthy for translocation. Each wolf weighs approximately 75 pounds and has a thick coat of light tan, gray, and white fur with black markings. The wolves were vaccinated and fitted with GPS collars. 

A female wolf emerges from her crate on the island

The wolves were placed at separate release sites on Isle Royale, far from the public and the known territory of the two resident wolves on the island. The National Park Service says it did not take long for the female to leave the crate and begin exploring her new home. The male left his crate after dark. 

“After months of planning, coordination, and weighing all the riskseven up to the morning of translocationit was a pleasure to see this initial success,” says Wolf, “but there is still some work ahead.”

The team of scientists, veterinarians, and public servants aim to translocate up to six wolves from the Minnesota and Michigan mainland to the park this fall. This is the first phase of a three- to five-year effort to relocate up to 20-30 wolves to the isolated island park. Researchers have recommended this number of wolves to establish adequate genetic variability. 


Photos courtesy of the National Park System