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Wolf-moose survey brought to halt by shutdown

The federal government’s partial shutdown appears to also have shut down researchers who are tracking wolves newly relocated to Isle Royale to help control the growing moose population.

A post on the researchers’ Facebook page posted Sunday said the winter survey might be off.

“It is our present understanding that the 61st Winter Study of Wolves and Moose in Isle Royale National Park will not be allowed during the partial shutdown of the Federal government,” read the post.

There are known to be five wolves on the island. Four wolves – three female and one male – were successfully transferred from the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Reservation last fall. Later in the season, the male was found dead after its GPS collar indicated it wasn't on the move. The cause of death wasn't immediately clear.

The introduced wolves are part of an island wolf relocation project to bolster numbers. The island had only two remaining wolves, descendants from animals that crossed ice bridges years ago, before the new group arrived. 

Park service officials had hoped to transfer six to eight wolves from Minnesota and Michigan in 2018, the first phase of a relocation project that could involve 30 wolves. Bad weather cut short the plan. At the time, park service officials said the next phase of relocation could happen this winter, and may include wolves from Canada.

The Wolf-Moose Project, based at Michigan Tech University in Houghton, could not be reached for an update or comment.

Correction: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly stated there are six wolves alive on Isle Royale.

DNR hires new big game supervisor

Barbara Keller, formerly the cervid manager for the Missouri Department of Conservation, takes over Feb. 1 overseeing Minnesota's deer, elk and moose populations.. 

“Barbara has a strong background in all aspects of managing deer, moose and elk populations, which will be an asset here in Minnesota,” said Paul Telander, Minnesota DNR wildlife chief. “We had an exceptional pool of candidates for this position and are looking forward to the skills and experience Barbara will bring to Minnesota’s big game program.”

Keller led Missouri's white-tailed deer and elk population management since 2016, including overseeing the state's chronic wasting disease program. Keller also set statewide deer regulations and helped supervise the development of regulations for what will be Missouri's first elk hunting season.

“I’m excited to join the DNR and get to work on all aspects of deer, elk and moose management,” Keller said. “I’m especially looking forward to implementing the white-tailed deer management plan.”

Keller is a graduate of Northland College in Ashland, Wis., earning a bachelor of science degree in natural resource management. She also holds a master’s degree in wildlife science from New Mexico State University and a doctorate from the University of Missouri in wildlife science. She has researched bighorn sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; bison, pronghorn, elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer in Custer State Park in South Dakota; and a restored elk population in the Missouri Ozarks.

Her pastimes include deer and turkey hunting, hiking, paddling and fishing.