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Wildlife

Photo from the IWC.

Here you'll find all WTIP news stories, interviews, and features that highlight the wildlife in our region.

Photo courtesy International Wolf Center.


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Wolf Pup via IWC.jpg

International Wolf Center Update - April 16, 2019

North Shore Morning Host, Brian Neil talks with International Wolf Center Executive Director, Rob Shultz for the IWC Update.

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Isle Royale moose study Feb 2019 Photo by Seth Moore, PhD, director of biology and environment, Grand Portage Band of Chippewa

Researchers to compare Isle Royale, Grand Portage Moose populations

The University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have partnered to conduct an interesting study of the moose populations in our region.
 
The purpose of the study is to compare mainland and island moose populations—the moose here on the North Shore of Minnesota and on Isle Royale, about 15 miles away on Lake Superior.  
 
Following the reintroduction of several collared wolves from Grand Portage to Isle Royale National Park last fall, and an additional six from Canada in the last month, a team of researchers have collared a number of moose on the island.
 
Click below to find interviews with two of the scientists involved in this study, Dr. Tiffany Wolf of the University’s Veterinary Medicine College and Dr. Seth Moore, Director of Biology and Environment for the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Join Rhonda Silence as she learns more.

Photos courtesy of Dr. Seth Moore, Director of Biology and Environment for the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.


 
Additional background is provided in this news release from the partner agencies:
 
ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK, MICHIGAN --- Following the reintroduction of several collared wolves from the Grand Portage Indian Reservation to Isle Royale National Park last fall, a team of researchers have now collared moose at the park for the first time since 1984. A unique collaboration between the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), National Park Service, Michigan Technological University, and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa aims to help the National Park Service assess the impacts of predator restoration to the ecosystem at the park.
 
This effort marks the beginning of a novel effort to compare the predator-prey dynamics and health of the population of moose on Isle Royale National Park to a neighboring population of collared moose on the mainland on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. It also represents an opportunity to evaluate the impact of restoring predation to the ecosystem.
 
Between February 13-17, 2019, a helicopter anesthesia darting team, a wildlife veterinarian, and wildlife research biologists fitted 20 cow moose with GPS collars on the west and east sides of the island. The team collected biological samples from the anesthetized moose, assessing individual moose health, and fitting them each with a collar. Afterward, each moose was administered a reversal drug—they all awoke and walked away in under two minutes. Since then, movement activity has been continuously monitored by GPS.
The team plans to conduct various studies with the data they have collected. They are looking to understand what impacts health of moose populations on both the mainland and Isle Royale, how predator dynamics play a role in moose populations, how differing forest management affects the ecosystem, and how climate may play a role in ecosystem health.

Contrasting ecosystems
Isle Royale hosts a simple ecosystem with one predator species, wolves, and one primary prey species, moose. This makes it an ideal system for comparative research with mainland populations of moose, such as those found on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, which hosts a more complex ecosystem with multiple predators and multiple prey species. Mainland populations of moose are in decline due to predation from bears and wolves on moose calves in early spring, as well as compounded effects of climate change, which includes parasitism from brainworm (transmitted by the invasion of whitetail deer into moose range), and high winter tick loads due to early snow melt.
 
By contrast, the moose population on Isle Royale has increased rapidly in recent years. Although moose in Isle Royale also suffer from high winter tick loads, the Isle Royale population of moose does not have deer to transmit brainworm. Another crucial difference is that wolf numbers are high on the mainland (due to high deer densities), whereas the island only has a few remaining wolves predating on the moose population.
 
Over the last two decades, the island’s wolf population suffered from inbreeding depression that drove the population to the brink of extinction. That circumstance is an indirect consequence of climate change, which led to fewer ice bridges forming between island and mainland, preventing wolves from moving to and from the island. The impact of the growing moose population on forest vegetation is increasingly apparent and experts are concerned that such high levels of browsing damage are impacting forest regeneration and may eventually lead to nutritional stress for moose.
 
The contradictory population trajectories between Isle Royale’s wolves and moose and those on the mainland create an ideal opportunity to better understand by comparison what ecological factors are impacting each population. “This is a unique opportunity to explore the health of a species through the comparison of two populations under a different set of pressures alongside experts from different scientific disciplines and with their own distinctive skillsets,” says Tiffany Wolf, DVM, PhD, assistant professor in the Veterinary Population Medicine Department at the CVM. Wolf is one of many collaborators on the project. “That kind of collaboration brings research to the next level and affords the opportunity to attain new insights into population health that might otherwise not be realized.”

Decades in the making
Grand Portage Band has more than 250 years of stewardship of Isle Royale. UMN has conducted research on wolf-moose interaction on the island for 45 years. UMN and Grand Portage have been collaborating to study moose health and habitat use since 2009.
 
The decade-long partnership has since expanded to explore other aspects of health related to species important to the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa.
 


 
Photo credit JGraham NPLSF

Wolf Transfer a Success

WTIP North Shore Morning host, Mark Abrahamson spoke with Robert Schultz, Executive Director of the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN about the weekends successful transfer of wolves from Michipicoten Island to Isle Royale.

Listen to the interview below...

 

 

An urgent effort to relocate seven gray wolves from Michipicoten Island and Canada’s mainland to Isle Royale has ended with success. The effort, which ran from Friday through Sunday, successfully and efficiently moved seven gray wolves at risk of death because of a shortage of prey.

The operation was funded with $45,000 from the International Wolf Center and $30,000 from the Lake Superior National Parks Foundation. Through a GoFundMe account online, another $11,500 was raised.

“We are honored to have played a role in this important operation,” said Rob Schultz, the executive director of the International Wolf Center. “We have been relaying updates of the capture and transfer progress to media and the public throughout the weekend.”

Isle Royale National Park superintendent Phyllis Green said the project on Michipicoten this weekend to save those hungry wolves would not have happened if countless donors didn’t step forward.

“I just want to thank everyone who donated,” she said. “On Saturday, we were watching the money aspects of this. It really helped to have all the donations that came in. We were pretty much right on the mark for what the estimate was and what came in from donors. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Three wolves were captured and moved Friday by teams of professionals. On Saturday, another four were moved. Of the seven, three were female. Six came from Michipicoten Island and one came from Canada’s mainland.

“They were long days, but we had a really wonderful result,” Green said. “We were coordinating five aircraft and seven wolves, arriving independently. It was very intense.”

It is believed that a 2-year-old female that was moved from Michipicoten to Isle Royale may be pregnant. If she were to give birth on Isle Royale this spring, those would be the first pups born on the island since 2014, according to Rolf Peterson, the lead researcher studying wolves and moose on the island.

“Any reproduction on the island this year would be pretty remarkable,” Peterson said. Peterson followed the weekend’s events closely.

“I was just glad it was successfully concluded,” he said. “There are so many ways it can go wrong. You’re nervous until it’s over.”

Peterson and the researchers now will wait to see how the island’s new inhabitants form their packs

“We just have to wait now until the wolves organize their personal lives and get on with things,” he said. “It’s been seven years out there since wolf predation had any impact on moose out there. It will be good to see that going again.”

The males captured on Michipicoten were close to healthy weights, but the females weighed between 50 and 60 pounds, far below what is considered healthy. The low female weights are due to the fact that the wolves on Michipicoten had run out of prey. Meanwhile, Isle Royale is populated by more than 1,600 moose, which is far above what biologists think is viable for the island to sustain. Too many moose on Isle Royale will lead to the overconsumption of vegetation, eventually causing severe damage to the the island’s ecosystem and raising concerns that the moose population may collapse.

By reintroducing wolves to the island, the moose will again have a natural predator to keep their population at sustainable levels. Scientists expect the two populations to again manage themselves as they had done on the island for decades. These seven new wolves join eight that were already on the island, including six that have been reintroduced since September through other efforts.

“Now our focus will turn to following the researchers as they study the impact of these new wolves on Isle Royale,” Schultz said. “As we move into the summer months, we look forward to working closely with the National Park Service and the Lake Superior National Parks Foundation to begin planning the next phase of wolf reintroduction efforts that are expected to occur this fall.”

About 20 to 30 new gray wolves are expected to be introduced to Isle Royale National Park over the next three to five years.

The International Wolf Center, founded in 1985, is known worldwide as the premier source for wolf information and education. The mission of the Center is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The Center educates through its website, its ambassador wolves, museum exhibits, educational outreach programs, International Wolf magazine, and a beautiful interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota.

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International Wolf Center Update - March 13, 2019

North Shore Morning host, Shawna Willis talks with International Wolf Center Executive Director, Rob Schultz for the IWC Update.

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Photo via NPLSF

Rescuing Wolves from Michipicoten Island to Isle Royale

WTIP's volunteer North Shore Morning host, Shawna Willis talks with Carol Brady about the effort by National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation and International Wolf Center efforts to fund the transfer of Wolves from Michipicoten Island where they are starving, to Isle Royale.

You can find the interview below.

WTIP contacted Carol after receiving the following press release:

The National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation announced today that, with the support of the International Wolf Center, an urgent final effort is underway to move four to six wolves to Isle Royale National Park over the next four days.

Earlier this year, two wolves from Michipicoten Island (located in northern Lake Superior) were moved to Isle Royale. Four to six wolves still remain on the island and are at risk since their only available winter prey on the island, caribou, are gone. Officials had hoped to move all of the wolves off Michipicoten earlier, but poor weather, government shutdowns and a lack of funding delayed that effort.

The Foundation and the International Wolf Center agree that this wolf relocation project needs a strong start to have a more immediate impact on the current burgeoning moose population on Isle Royale, where an estimate of more than 1,600 moose are threatening the ecosystem.

"On Michipicoten, nature's lessons can be cruel and starvation is one of them,” said Sona Mehring, the chair of the foundation. “For the remaining wolves on Michipicoten, that will be their fate unless we help move them to Isle Royale National Park, where their hunting skills and genetics can add value to establishing a new population of wolves on Isle Royale.”

“We’re especially proud of the fact that the International Wolf Center is helping to save the lives of a small pack of wolves on Michipicoten Island,” said the Wolf Center’s Executive Director Rob Schultz. “Since all of the caribou have been removed from Michipicoten, there’s nothing left for the wolves there to eat this winter and there is a real threat of starvation.”

It is estimated that the four-day effort, which will begin either Friday (March 22) or Saturday (March 23), will cost $100,000.

The foundation raised $30,000. The International Wolf Center raised an additional $45,000. The organizations have started a GoFundMe page to raise the final $25,000. That page can be found here.  

"As we discussed this project, we found many people who supported seeing the forests of Isle Royale remaining healthy,” Mehring said. “We are close to realizing the goal of providing another capture opportunity to move these iconic wolves to an island that needs them in its ecosystem.”

Science has long showed that wolves play an important role in nature. This translocation shows how wolves can be used to naturally manage ungulate populations.

“Since the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact wolves have on ecosystems,” Schultz said. “A thriving wolf population in Isle Royale’s ecosystem will make a similar impact. If left unchecked, moose would over-consume the island’s vegetation. Apex predators, like wolves, are important components of any healthy, natural ecosystems.

“This shows just one more way we put our donor’s support to hard work to advance wolf populations around the world. We’re honored to team up with National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation to make a difference together.”

 
National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preservation of the natural resources and unique cultural heritage of Lake Superior’s five U.S. National Parks. National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation funds research, restoration, education, and resource protection projects for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Grand Portage National Monument, Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw National Historical Park, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation has a proven record of funding projects both large and small providing more that $1.5 million in funding across all five parks.
 
The International Wolf Center, founded in 1985, is known worldwide as the premier source for wolf information and education. The mission of the Center is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The Center educates through its website, its ambassador wolves, museum exhibits, educational outreach programs, International Wolf magazine, and a beautiful interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota.

 

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Wolf running at Isle Royale after being relocated from Canada. Photo courtesy of National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation

Four Canadian wolves released at Isle Royale

Four more wolves arrived to Isle Royale National Park in recent days. During a narrow weather window between storms last week, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry successfully transferred four wolves from Canada to Isle Royale.

Two mainland wolves, one female and one male from the same pack and both with a black coat color variation, were captured on crown land near Wawa, Ontario, and transferred to Isle Royale, according to a news release from the National Park Service. Weather cleared long enough on Feb. 28 to provide an opportunity to access Michipicoten Island Provincial Park on Lake Superior, where two males were captured.

All four wolves were evaluated based on expectations for winter body conditions and deemed healthy enough for transfer and release.

The first Canadian wolf, a 65 pound female, arrived at Isle Royale Feb. 26. The next day, wildlife officials successfully captured a large 92-pound male from the same pack. He was held for evaluation and transported to Isle Royale and released on Thursday.

The clear skies on Thursday finally allowed wildlife officials to reach Michipicoten Island.While there, they captured two male wolves, including the alpha male of the Michipicoten Island pack.  He was transported and released on Isle Royale Friday.

“These large males, all around 90 lbs., will almost certainly know what to do when they encounter a moose,” stated Mark Romanski, Division Chief of Natural Resources for Isle Royale National Park and project manager for the reintroduction efforts.

In related news, one of the three wolves transferred from Grand Portage to Isle Royale last fall recently crossed Lake Superior on a natural ice bridge and returned to the mainland.

Satellite imagery from March 2 showed much of Lake Superior covered in ice. The National Ice Center estimates the Big Lake is more than 80 percent covered in ice.
 

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Believe it or not, this blue jay survived this misadventure

Hovland couple rescues trapped blue jay

Watching birds at the feeder is a pastime enjoyed by many northlanders. It is normally a relaxing activity. Not so for Sandy and John Bockovich on September 25. A greedy blue jay brought some excitement to the Hovland couple. 

WTIP's Rhonda Silence talks to Sandy Bockovich about the activity at her bird feeder this week. 

Photos by Sandy Bockovich

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