Isle Royale Wolf Relocation Education Initative

Press Release March 21, 2019: Foundations fund urgent wolf transfer to Isle Royale

We need your help to ensure this amazing story is captured.

The ongoing sixty-year predator/prey study of wolves and moose on Isle Royale provides the backdrop for a new chapter of understanding regarding these two iconic animals and the ecosystem in which they interact. The future story is yet to be written.

This is a multiyear project that will fund an educational documentary geared toward K-12 students. It will chronicle reintroduction efforts and research with a holistic view and balanced reporting of the factors and conditions the introduction of new wolves to Isle Royale will generate.

Isle Royale National Park PRESS RELEASE, Release Date: March 4, 2019

Canadian Wolves Released at Isle Royale

HOUGHTON, MICH- During a narrow weather window between storms last week, Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) successfully transferred two wolves from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park and two from the adjacent Ontario mainland to Isle Royale National Park.

Earlier this winter severe winter weather on both sides of the border hampered the ability to capture and transfer wolves. However, with the goal of balancing the male/female wolf ratio on Isle Royale combined with a need for robust wolf genetics from Canada, OMNRF personnel remained committed to providing wolves from Michipicoten Island Provincial Park to support the repopulation of Isle Royale. Knowing weather could once again prevent access to Michipicoten, OMNRF devised a strategy to acquire wolves from the mainland in Ontario if they were unable to access the island.

Over the course of four days, 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 and transferred to Isle Royale. Weather cleared long enough on Thursday to provide an opportunity to access Michipicoten Island, where two males were captured; one at the very end of the day as operations were winding down.

All the wolves were captured using OMNRF aircraft. The operation was coordinated by Kevin Middel, OMNRF, and Brent Patterson, OMNRF researcher and Trent University adjunct professor. Two National Park Service veterinarians, Michelle Verant and Jenny Powers along with Graham Crawshaw, an OMNRF veterinarian, supported the project to ensure animal welfare and assess the health of the wolves to be transferred. Two veterinarians completed health assessments in Wawa and one veterinarian received the wolves on Isle Royale to ensure they were fit for release. 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 on Tuesday afternoon. The next day, OMNRF 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 OMNRF to access Michipicoten Island Provincial Park. While there, they captured two male wolves. The first was delivered directly to Isle Royale and released in the late evening hours under clear starry skies on Thursday. The team also captured the alpha male of the Michipicoten Island pack. He was transported and released on Isle Royale Friday.

I am impressed by the resilience this international team showed to overcome adversity and meet project objectives: polar vortex, federal government shutdown, complex aviation logistics, the list is endless,” stated Mark Romanski, Division Chief of Natural Resources for Isle Royale National Park and project manager for the reintroduction efforts. He continued, “I am even more blown away by the resilience of these wolves who within hours after undergoing capture and handling and arriving on Isle Royale, immediately got on the trail of their pack mates. These large males, all around 90 lbs., will almost certainly know what to do when they encounter a moose.” NPS made the decision to restore predation, a key ecosystem dynamic, to Isle Royale National Park last June and sourcing the startup population from diverse geographic areas was essential to ensure genetic diversity, thus Canadian wolves have been a critical component to future success. Graciously Ontario Premier Doug Ford approved the operation in October to support NPS objectives.

Superintendent of Isle Royale National Park, Phyllis Green stated: “ to see these wolves disappear into the forests of Isle Royale and to have an opportunity to start a new generation of wolves on the island fulfilled a major objective in the first year of reestablishing the population. The success reflected six months of planning and represented a major accomplishment by the agencies involved.” Changing ice conditions and winter storms foiled a previous attempt to acquire the Canadian wolves. This week afforded only four operating days between weather windows and the success of the operations can be attributed to the planning and expertise of the OMNRF. Green cited the amazing aircraft resources of the OMNRF, normally used for firefighting, which were critical in capturing the wolves and delivering them to Isle Royale National Park.

Additionally, the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation (NPLSF) has played a crucial role in supporting and documenting the translocation efforts from Canada. When this translocation phase of the project experienced cost overruns due to weather, the Chair, Sona Mehring, worked with the International Wolf Center to ensure the operation continued through the end of the week. The Foundation plans to continue to support the remaining two years of the project and is developing documentary films regarding the project for audiences of all ages.


September, 2018...




Isle Royale National Park and Partners Release two Wolves on the Island 
Press Release: September 27, 2018

HOUGHTON, MICHIGAN-- After years of study, public engagement, and planning, the first wolves in a National Park Service (NPS) wolf translocation project to restore predation to the island ecosystem have been moved to Isle Royale National Park from the Grand Portage Indian Reservation


On Wednesday, September 26, late in the day, two gray wolves, a 4-year old female and a 5-year old male, were taken to the island on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aircraft. The wolves were then carried to separate release sites away from the public and the territory of the two resident wolves. It did not take long for the female to leave the crate and begin exploring her new home on the island. The male left his crate after dark. Other wolves will join the two in the coming weeks.


"We have been planning this relocation operation with our partners and are very pleased with the progress so far," said Superintendent Phyllis Green. "Releasing these two wolves on the island is the first step to restoring the ecological dynamic in the park. The assistance of all our partners is critical to the success of this effort." On this project, the NPS is collaborating with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources,  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, U.S. Geological Survey, University of Minnesota, and multiple NPS units. 


The male and female wolves released on the island Wednesday came from different pack territories on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in northeastern Minnesota.  Both wolves received medical examinations by NPS wildlife veterinarian  Michelle Verant and wildlife veterinarian Tiffany Wolf of the University of Minnesota, before they were transported. Both were found to be in good condition and apparently healthy. Each wolf weighs approximately 75 pounds and has a thick coat of light tan, gray, and white fur with black markings, which is typical of gray wolves in the region. The wolves were vaccinated and fitted with GPS collars. 


The Record of Decision for the Plan to Address Wolf Presence on Isle Royale National Park was signed by the NPS Midwest Regional Director Cam Sholly in June. The goal for this fall is to translocate up to six wolves from the Minnesota and Michigan mainland to the park.  This is the first phase of a three- to five-year effort to relocate up to 20-30 wolves to the isolated island park. Researchers recommended this number of wolves to establish adequate genetic variability to help accomplish the overall goal of restoring predation as a key part of the ecosystem on the island.  The NPS plans to monitor ecological conditions and other factors, such as predation rates, genetics, moose-wolf ratios, and terrestrial and aquatic vegetation impacts to evaluate project success.