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Wolves Are Airdropped Onto Island to Counter Moose Boom

As ice bridges melt, migration happens by helicopter
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2019 6:52 PM CST
A white wolf released in Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. Authorities have relocated four Canadian wolves in an effort to restore the predator species on the Lake Superior island chain.   (Daniel Conjanu/The National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation via AP)
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(Newser) – Four Canadian wolves now find themselves in a strange habitat, an island in Lake Superior, after being airdropped there by the US National Park Service. Their mission is to whittle down the moose population in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park, the Guardian reports, and help grow the wolf population. But first they have to learn to survive on the island. "They are being introduced to each other," says the American ecologist in charge of the operation. "It's tense and nervous—and it's tough to find food in a new place. It's stressful." In the past, ice bridges linked the island and the mainland for at least 50 days a year, so wolves could migrate. Lately, the ice bridges have been less reliable, leaving the last two wolves effectively stranded on the island and preventing others from getting there. Another 20 or 30 wolves could be airlifted to the island in the next five years.

The wolf population in the continental US was down to a few hundred in the 1990s but has rebounded. "Our attitudes have changed enough to decide definitively that we want to live with wolves," the ecologist says. "But we haven't decided how to live with wolves." The rebounding population of the gray wolf was given as the reason Wednesday, the New York Times reports, when the US Interior Department proposed taking it off the list of endangered species. The government called the the gray wolf's story "one of our nation's great conservation successes." The delisting can't happen before a period of public comment, and arguments for and against are already being made. The matter could end up in court, which is what happened last time. The Obama administration tried to remove protections for the gray wolf in 2013 but lost in court. (Read more wolves stories.)

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