Isle Royal Gray Wolf Population

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  • Topic: Gray Wolf, Wolf, Cougar
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Nichols-Felan 1

Sandy Nichols-Felan

Professor Caroline McNutt

Biology 104

15 June 2011

This paper is about the Isle Royal Gray Wolf Population. This paper will discuss when the Gray Wolf first appeared there, their population when they were first studied, how the numbers have remained in check, the importance of the Moose population as it impacts the number of the Gray Wolves, their current population number and what has caused their population decline, what is being considered to help increase their population numbers, and finally conclude with what I believe should be done to resurrect their current population and why.

To begin, the Gray Wolves first came to Isle Royale in about the year 1950 by walking on an ice bridge from Canada. Since 1958 the wolves have been studied and their population numbers recorded every year. Each winter to mid-January to early-March, the numbers of wolves are counted on Isle Royale. Since the studies first began in 1958, they have shown that Isle Royal will have an average number of about 24 wolves living in Isle Royale at any given time. (isleroyalewolf.org). Now that we have discussed when the Gray Wolf first appeared in Isle Royale and their population when they were first studied, we will look at how their numbers have remained in check. Over the course of studying the Gray Wolves for the last 50 years, it seems that the primary regulatory influence was believed to be food supply or social controls, or some

Nichols-Felan 2 combination, and high pup mortality in other wolf populations has been regarded as important in reducing their growth potential and the finding of an apparently malnourished pup on Isle Royal in 1964 suggests that food shortages during the pup-rearing season were of regulatory significance (isleroyalewolf.org).

Now that we have discussed how the Gray Wolves numbers have remained in check over the last 50 years, we will look at the importance of the Moose population as it impacts the number of the Gray Wolves. During the studies it was discovered that moose represent 90% of the wolves’ diet providing them with a steady food source. After studying the moose populations and habits of them it was recorded that the Gray Wolf will hunt, kill, and eat the injured, younger or ever the older unhealthy moose. This helps support the Gray Wolves population and also helps keep the moose population in check as-well-as helps to keep them from starving to death during harsh winters when their food sources are less plentiful, and by over-browsing vegetation at the park.

Now that we have discussed the importance of the Moose population as it impacts the number of the Gray Wolves we will look at their current population number and what has caused their population to decline. It was reported by The Mining Journal in March of 2011 that after genetic testing on droppings of the wolves was performed by scientist, it is now a belief that of that all the remaining 16 wolves are male except for one or two females (Mining Journal). It appears that random chance seems to be the reason for this imbalance of the male and female ratio. “This number of wolves is the lowest since 1998, when it hit 14 following a huge moose die-off that left the wolves short of food. Earlier that decade, the parvovirus-decimated total was a dozen after peaking at 50 in the early 1980s” (Mining Journal). This means that if the one or Nichols-Felan 3 two females were to die; this would be the end of the Gray Wolf at Isle Royale. The population would last for only a couple of additional years before it would ultimately come to its’ demise as adult wolves usually live for only four to six years. Also inbreeding has caused genetic...
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