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Wildlife researchers discuss wolves, ice bridges and Isle Royale

Wolf in Minnesota. WTIP file photo
Wolf in Minnesota. WTIP file photo

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.

It is now believed the wolf departed the island on Jan. 31, headed north and then west to a location just north of the Pigeon River, on the border between Canada and Minnesota.

And while the news of a wolf crossing a frozen ice bridge from Isle Royale to the Minnesota or Ontario mainland may have come as news to some, it didn’t necessarily surprise a team of wildlife researchers who are involved with the wolf translocation project.

In a letter dated March 2017 that was sent from the Grand Portage Reservation Tribal Council to the National Park Service, it was noted that ice bridges do continue to form between the island and the mainland. The letter reads, in part:

“The Grand Portage Band feels that there is sufficient opportunity for natural repopulation by wolves from the mainland and they can provide a local genetic composition. We support this statement with the fact that two Grand Portage wolves, one of which was collared with GPS telemetry collar, crossed an ice bridge during winter 2015, stayed on the Island for a few days and departed back across the ice bridge. Thus, we know that ice bridges continue to form, and that mainland wolves continue to foray onto the island. While ice bridges may be less common than historically, they still occur, and the opportunity for natural repopulation would likely be impeded by a reintroduction event.”

Dr. Tiffany Wolf from the University of Minnesota is involved with the study of wolves and moose in northeastern Minnesota. She works in coordination with Dr. Seth Moore and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, including on the wolf relocation project at Isle Royale. They spoke with WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs about the wolf that returned to the mainland after crossing the Lake Superior ice bridge from Isle Royale.