Isle Royale which is close to Michigan, Canada and Minnesota, used to be filled with a population of 24 wolves a few years ago. They can only be found in this part of the country. Now only three remain and one of them is sick and deformed, as it is thought it is a result of inbreeding. Researchers claim that it might be too late to conduct genetic rescue now. Officials have considered delivering new wolves to the island in order to bring new genetic material but this might turn into a failure, because it is not likely that the new specimens will even consider mating with the Michigan wolves.
Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology John Vucetich said that there is little that can be done now to prevent them from becoming extinct. There is little explanation as to why this happened. Researchers are blaming the fewer ice bridges created between the island and the mainland. When there were more of these, other wolves migrated and brought new genetic material after mating with the Michigan wolves. This somehow solved the problems created by inbreeding. Like any other species, genetic diversity is important for health and survival. Because the number of ice bridges diminished, wolves from the mainland visiting Isle Royale have been fewer every year.
The largest population remaining on the island consists of 1.250 moose. This is not necessarily good news because a vast population of animals feeding on plants may alter the ecological balance of the isle. The presence of the wolves who constantly hunted the moose hindered the expansion of the moose community.
50 years ago, moose and wolves were placed together on the island to study how they interact. With the number of wolves drastically diminishing, we cannot speak of a balance between predators and prey anymore.
These changes will soon prompt the National Park Service to determine what can be done regarding the study. There are currently very few options available. One of them is to operate genetic rescue. This can be carried out by introducing new wolves either right now or when the population becomes extinct. Another option is to do nothing at all. Experts say that the latter is not the best choice, given the fact that the moose population is continually expanding and harming the ecosystem beyond repair.
Whatever they choose, it becomes clearer by the year that those beautiful Michigan wolves will turn into a rarity.
Image Source: Newsledge