Two adult wolves from Minnesota were captured and transferred to Isle Royale National Park Wednesday in the first phase of a project to rebuild the predator’s population on the wilderness island in Lake Superior.
The two are the first of six or eight wolves that National Park Service officials and wildlife specialists expect to move this fall.
The wolves, a 4-year-old female and a 5-year-old male, came from different packs on the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa reservation in northeast Minnesota. They were trapped this week, checked for diseases and parasites, and flown to separate spots on the island, where they were released.
Park Service officials said they hope to capture four or more wolves in Minnesota, plus more from northern Michigan, in order to maximize the genetic diversity of the island’s future population. Eventually, they hope to bring 20 to 30 wolves altogether — enough to establish a healthy, sustainable cohort and reduce the growing population of moose, which now number about 1,500.
Wolves first arrived on Isle Royale in the 1950s, most likely across ice bridges from the mainland, and over time grew to a population of about 50 in the 1970s. But inbreeding, disease and accidents have gradually reduced their numbers to two — a father and daughter who share the same mother.
All the new arrivals on the island will wear GPS collars so scientists can track their movements.