A new study from Michigan Technological University shows that the moose of Isle Royale are getting smaller. A comparison of moose skulls collected over the past 40 years revealed a 16% decline in overall size. That's in spite of a booming population.
Rolf Peterson, one of the authors of the study, says the change in size is due to poor nutrition early in life, and that can be attributed to a lack of predators and climate change.
Stateside's conversation with Michigan Tech professor John Vucetich
The Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project has been tracking the rare ecosystem on Isle Royale for almost 60 years. What makes Isle Royale rare is that the island, located in Lake Superior roughly 50 miles from the Upper Peninsula, has just two main animals inhabiting it. The food chain is simple: The wolves are the predators and the moose are the prey.
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Recently, the tracking of the wolves and moose on Isle Royale led to an unlikely musical creation.
The ongoing study of wolves and moose on Isle Royale in Lake Superior has hit a critical juncture. Researchers in charge of the longest continuous study of a predator-prey system anywhere in the world released their annual report today.
The ice bridge to Isle Royale has formed. See our post here.
Original post: January 9, 2014
Wolves first came to Isle Royale in Lake Superior by crossing an ice bridge in the late 1940s, but these ice bridges have not been forming as often in recent years and the wolf population on Isle Royale has been suffering as a result.
The wolves of Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park have not been doing well, but there’s some unexpected good news.
Earlier this year, researchers from Michigan Technological University who study the wolves reported there were just eight wolves left - and they reported they were unable to find any evidence of pups born to those wolves.
But now, that has changed. Michigan Tech researcher Rolf Peterson heard two or three wolf pups in July.
Times have changed. In Michigan we plan on killing wolves because some feel there are too many. It's a different story on Isle Royale where the wolf population is hanging on by a thread. But because Isle Royale National Park is a designated wilderness area, we, as humans, have pledged not to intervene. So what should we do? The National Park Service has a big decision to make. The folks who have been studying this place for a long time share their thoughts in this op-ed piece.
You can listen to today's Environment Report here or read an expanded version of the story below.
Wolves and moose fight for survival on Michigan's Isle Royale National Park. For more than 50 years, researchers have been closely watching them in the world’s longest-running study of predators and prey.
The number of predators on the island has been sinking fast.
The Park is a dedicated wilderness area, so managers do their best to keep it as untouched by humans as possible. But people might need to step in.
Phyllis Green is the park's superintendent. “At this point we’re concerned about the low levels of wolves on the island, but we’re also concerned about making sure the next steps we take are well-thought-out,” she says.
There are just eight wolves left on Isle Royale. This is the first year that Michigan Technological University researchers were unable to document any pups born to the wolves.
ISLE ROYALE, Mich. (AP) - Isle Royale National Park's gray wolves apparently don't have a gender gap after all.
Scientists reported last year that only nine wolves remained on the Lake Superior island chain - the lowest total in more than 50 years. They said just one was known to be a female, raising doubts about the predator's long-term prospects for survival in the wilderness park.
But Superintendent Phyllis Green said Thursday that genetic analysis of wolf excrement and additional observations suggest that four or five of the animals are females.
Even so, Green says the wolves' situation remains tenuous and experts are studying how climate change may affect them.
Michigan Technological University biologists are conducting their annual winter study at Isle Royale and are expected to release updated wolf and moose numbers next month.
Williams spoke with scientist Rolf Peterson about the island’s diminishing wolf population.
“Over the past 54 years, researchers have collected more than 4,000 moose skeletons on the island. The bones offer clues about the moose population – and about the wolves. Wolves got here by crossing an ice bridge from Ontario in the late 1940’s,” said Williams.
Peterson’s studies are extensive.
“This study of wolves and moose is the longest running study in the world of a predator and its prey. Rolf Peterson has been involved for 42 years of the study. He’s been here through the brutal black fly summers and the harshest winters. He and his wife Candy live in an old fishing cabin on the island for much of the year,” said Williams.
The wolf-moose research project on Michigan's Isle Royale National Park is in its 54th year.
A big chunk of their research goes into tracking down dead moose - bones and carcasses - around the island.
From these remains the researchers can pick apart the status and overall health of the moose population. And understanding moose is important to wolf research, since the wolves eat the moose.
It's like understanding the overall quality and quantity of food available at the grocery store. If there's good, abundant food available, you'd expect things to be good. If not, well - you get the picture.
When Rebecca Williams and I arrived at the Daisy Farm campground on Isle Royale, we were met by Rolf Peterson in his boat.
He said he'd just heard of a dead moose on Caribou Island and asked whether we would like to go see it with him.
A stroke of luck. We'd traveled by plane, car, and boat to get here, and here was our chance to see Peterson in action.
Here's a video of our trip with him. Is ripping the skull off a dead moose gross? I didn't think so, but you can be the judge.
So, what did you think? Vote by typing "gross" or "not gross" in the comment section below.
For some, the magic of Isle Royale doesn't necessarily reside in the boat trip to the island.
Two days before Rebecca Williams and I left on our reporting trip, a friend and I were having lunch together.
"You're not riding on the 'Barf Barge' are you?!"
"The boat from Copper Harbor?"
"Yeah, I took that trip. We were on Isle Royale for a week. The first half of the week, all we could talk about was the boat trip over. And the second half of the week, all we could talk about was the boat trip back!"
On her trip, as the ship pulled out of Copper Harbor, the captain came on the loudspeaker.
Two Northern Michigan scientists are turning to the public for funding help.
Michigan Tech researcher Rolf Peterson studies the wolf population on Isle Royale National Park. Peterson says the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, has helped fund the bulk of the research on the island for the past several decades.