Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

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Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by Isela » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:26 am

Abstract:
Isle Royale could be down to its last wolf, but all hope is not yet lost.
After several years of research, the National Park Service is close to releasing their final plan for Isle Royale’s wolf population.

“Right now the alternative that is going forward as the preferred is the same one that we identified in the plan last year and that is to introduce wolves in a short time period: 20 to 30 wolves over about a three year time period in order to establish a self-sustaining population on the island,” said National Park Service public information officer said Liz Valencia.
Full article - Read here

This has been in discussion for a while now, and now the plans pertaining to the wolf population on Isle Royale are underway.
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Re: Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by DaniBeez » Fri Dec 22, 2017 1:41 pm

It will be neat to see how the moose and wolf populations react to this influx over time. According to this graph, 20-30 is a middle-ish number for the island.

With climate change probably negatively impacting how often that ice bridge is going to get to form (and therefore how often wolves can come and go from the island), I'm guessing the 20-30 number will be enough to sustain the wolf population for another 100 years or so, before it collapses again due to inbreeding.
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Re: Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by Koa » Sat Dec 23, 2017 2:50 pm

It's a shame that they are leaning towards a gradual release of wolves. In my opinion, the scientists eager to get wolves back on the island are shortsighted and blinded by the prospect of continuing their research. I don't know, but it doesn't seem worth it to me. I like the moose open season idea that Solitary proposed on the other thread. It seems like a better, lower-cost alternative to keep the moose population in check.
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Re: Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by DaniBeez » Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:18 am

Playing devil's advocate, you could argue that this is a very justifiable opportunity to study the ecological effects of apex predator re-introduction in a closed/island system, under the conditions of a warming climate:
“This catches me by surprise,” says social scientist and environmental ethicist Michael Paul Nelson of Oregon State University in Corvallis, who has studied public comments sent to NPS on the question of Isle Royale wolves. But he sees the announcement as a “really important step. We are facing a future where human intervention is going to be required to secure ecosystem health. … We can’t just do nothing.”  

Wolves have been successfully moved and reintroduced to other areas, most notably in Yellowstone National Park and in Sweden. But the Isle Royale wolf introduction would follow nearly 6 decades of study of the predator-prey interaction on an island, and could illuminate how that interaction unfolds in a changing climate. Isle Royale Park Superintendent Phyllis Green emphasizes that the planning is not about a single species. “The focus really needs to be on ecosystems,” she says.
[Source]

Although to your point, I honestly don't know how the costs of an annual moose harvest on an island would compare to a long-term observational study. The wolves will work for free and clean up though, :lol:!

I wonder what the public comments are like, if they are available online. I might go read them another time.
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Re: Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by Isela » Tue Mar 20, 2018 12:51 pm

As an update to this thread, the National Park Service is planning to move forward with their plans and introduce 20-30 wolves on Isle Royale.

Abstract from the Associated Press and Detroit Free Press:
WASHINGTON — The National Park Service today formally moved forward with its proposal to put 20 to 30 wolves on Isle Royale in Lake Superior over three years to bolster the nearly extinct population on the island and cull the growing herd of moose.
Full article here: https://amp.freep.com/amp/431148002

Honestly, it would be better to let nature take its course in this situation. While working at the International Wolf Center, I had the privilege of talking with Dr. David Mech, and he posed his concerns about the ice bridges connecting Isle Royale to the mainland unable to form in recent years due to climate change. Without these ice bridges, the wolves, moose, and other species cannot go back and forth between the island and the mainland, unless they swam (and make it across). However, swimming uses up a lot of energy, which, for megafauna, is too valuable to use all in one go.

Also, islands are not very suitable for maintaining a population of megafauna, or larger animals. There is a limited amount of resources found on islands. Take islands such as Madagascar and the Galapagos for example. The wildlife species found on those islands are much smaller than megafauna, such as wolves and moose. The larger the animal, the more energy they use, thus the more resources they require. Smaller animals require lesser amounts of resources to sustain themselves. Islands do not contain the amount of resources larger animals need to thrive and sustain themselves.

Plus, I believe the same issue will happen again with the wolves inbreeding, ultimately sealing their fate. They are cut off from the larger amounts of land they need to spread out and cover more distance between packs.
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Re: Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by DaniBeez » Tue Mar 20, 2018 4:45 pm

Thanks for sharing that update Isela!

I'm still in favour of this reintroduction. I am interested to see this long term dataset grow even more, and how the species richness and abundance of species other than wolves and moose are affected by this reintroduction. This is a very unique study system.

With climate change and the human-induced "sixth mass extinction", there is a good chance we will be intervening into ecosystems more often in the future, and this study could give us insights about how to go about doing that.

You make a good point Isela re larger organisms on an island. Without a way for genetic material to emigrate and immigrate, the population will crash again. But we don't know if the recent trend of no ice bridges forming could change in the future; it could be a short-term trend.

This comment though:
“Perhaps the wolves intuitively know of the genetic downsides to island isolation,” the group wrote.
No :P.
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Re: Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by Koa » Sat Mar 24, 2018 12:20 am

I’m still against the reintroduction, so I’ll just share what I posted on Facebook in response to IWC’s post— sorry if the language is coarse (as it was meant for the unruly Facebook crowd).
This is both a shame and a waste of resources. Coyotes were on the island before these non-native wolves and went extinct on the island because of them, and I don’t see anyone arguing for the reintroduction of coyotes. Even before wolves, coyotes, and moose, caribou and lynx were originally on the island and they’ve also conveniently been forgotten about. I don’t see why NPS can’t allow hunters to come in and manage the moose instead. Releasing 20-30 wolves will only result in the same thing happening (inbreeding over time) and, in my opinion, is both irresponsible and inhumane, yet self-proclaimed animal (read: wolf) lovers and activists think and say otherwise.
Isela brings up a good point, as well. You bring up a good point as well, DaniBeez. But I’m not sure if bringing in 20-30 wolves will result in a different outcome than what has already occurred given the small size of the island (and when the island at one point had 50 wolves? Although, I guess they were highly inbred so I suppose that’s different). I think the wolves and moose have had their time and personally I don’t agree with the NPS pooling monetary resources when they (a have already studied a similar situation and (b have other environmental assets they should considering protecting (lthrowing money at”) given the current attitude of the nation’s government.
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Re: Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by Koa » Sat Mar 24, 2018 12:21 am

I’m still against the reintroduction, so I’ll just share what I posted on Facebook in response to IWC’s post— sorry if the language is coarse (as it was meant for the unruly Facebook crowd).
This is both a shame and a waste of resources. Coyotes were on the island before these non-native wolves and went extinct on the island because of them, and I don’t see anyone arguing for the reintroduction of coyotes. Even before wolves, coyotes, and moose, caribou and lynx were originally on the island and they’ve also conveniently been forgotten about. I don’t see why NPS can’t allow hunters to come in and manage the moose instead. Releasing 20-30 wolves will only result in the same thing happening (inbreeding over time) and, in my opinion, is both irresponsible and inhumane, yet self-proclaimed animal (read: wolf) lovers and activists think and say otherwise.
Isela brings up a good point. You bring up a good point as well, DaniBeez. But I’m not sure if bringing in 20-30 wolves will result in a different outcome than what has already occurred given the small size of the island (and when the island at one point had 50 wolves? Although, I guess they were highly inbred so I suppose that’s different). I think the wolves and moose have had their time given the generous 50+ years of study on them and personally I don’t agree with the NPS pooling monetary resources when they (a have already studied a similar situation and (b have other environmental assets they should considering protecting (lthrowing money at”) given the current attitude of the nation’s government. If this is supposed to be viewed as an oppportunity to test intervention methods in lieu of climate change, I’d rather them actually use NPS funds to try to mitigate and/or prepare for climate change in areas that haven’t had an opportunity to be studied and/or bolstered by studies.
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Re: Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction Plans Move Forward

Post by DaniBeez » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:44 pm

You raise an important point too Koa, about the motivations behind this decision other than the scientific ones. I don't have any insights about the political motivations behind this funding decision, if any.

And if this ice bridge isn't more likely to form with climate change, the only way to guarentee a different outcome from this system would be to artificially intervene with new wolves more frequently. Perhaps that is in the plan this time? I'm not sure.

Re the other species: my guess is that the wolf-moose system is the easiest to manage in the long term. Maybe the others would require more intervention and resources from humans to keep going (and keep going simultaneously with one another), so they picked this single pairing.

The ethics is an interesting topic too. I'm personally not in favour of intentionally breeding to physical deformity in dogs, where our species has a direct role. How do I feel about Isle Royale then? Here the wolves are free to breed on their own, but were placed on the island by us. Both these scenarios would likely not happen without our intervention, although the island scenario is the more likely of the two. I think that the ends of the Island scenario can justify the means, so I am okay with it.


EDIT: Adding on some thoughts inspired by a discussion today in one of my lab groups. Population-level extinction, be it from inbreeding or insufficient resources, is a normal part of ecological experimentation. People will howl (pun intended) about the usage of of charismatic megafauna like wolves in experiments, but not small invertebrates. Over the course of my own work, I have killed hundreds of Daphnia during sampling.
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