Wolves at Our Door goes to states with rebounding wolf numbers

Contact:
Chad Richardson, communications director
International Wolf Center
Office: 763-560-7374, ext. 225
chad@wolf.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Wolves have undeniably begun to reclaim portions of their historic range in the western United States. As their numbers in the western U.S. quickly grew after being reintroduced at Yellowstone National Park 24 years ago, education about these predators hasn’t always kept pace. The International Wolf Center is reaching out to help.

Without question, a great many organizations based in the western United States have worked to educate the public about wolves. But this problem is greater than any one organization can solve, so the International Wolf Center is expanding its popular Wolves at Our Door program to those western states.

The program educates more than 15,000 students in Minnesota every year. Now, the Center is teaching partnering organizations how to launch the program and share it with schools in their states. Two training sessions have been held with these organizations, including one in Ely, Minnesota, and Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, from June 10-13.

During that session, representatives from the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in Oregon and Museum and the Sequoia Park Zoo in California were flown to Minneapolis and then driven by the Center to Ely. Over the next three days, those representatives got a full wolf education by retired Wisconsin wolf biologist Dick Thiel, as well as background on the program by the Center’s Outreach Director, Misi Stine. The group returned to the Twin Cities for further education with renowned wolf biologist Dr. Dave Mech, who founded the Center in 1985.

“There’s no question that many of those who live in the western United States have strong opinions about wolves,” said Chad Richardson, the Center’s Administrator. “For some, those opinions aren’t formed from facts but rather are formed from myths and fears. We’re trying to change that with these programs, which are based wholly on science.”

The Center has a unique aim, which is focused on advancing wolf populations by teaching the world about wolves. It presents many sides to the wolf debate during its Wolves at Our Door program and encourages attendees to make up their own minds about wolves, only after hearing the science-based facts.

“As I’ve traveled around Minnesota to present these programs, I’ve found two sources of misunderstanding,” said Stine, the Center’s Outreach Director. “When I speak to school children, their only exposure to wolves has typically been through fairy tales. When I speak to adults, many have formed their opinions based on what they heard in a 20-second newscast or through an exaggerated report on the evening news. So many people just don’t have the facts to support their strong opinions. Hopefully we can continue to fix that.”

Future training sessions are being planned by Stine involving organizations in the western United States.

The Western Wolves at Our Door project is funded with two grants, including one from The Margaret A. Cargill Fund at the Minnesota Community Foundation.

The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit wolf.org

Event will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Ely

 

Contact:
Chad Richardson, communications director
International Wolf Center
Office: 763-560-7374, ext. 2250
chad@wolf.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – The grand opening for the exciting new exhibit at the International Wolf Center is set from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 28, in Ely. The event is free, and the public is invited to come experience the immersive exhibit, titled Discover Wolves!. After a brief welcoming ceremony, the Center’s doors will open to the family-friendly adventure that features wolf howls, northern lights and a simulated airplane ride.

“As the first visitors explored exhibit, it was thrilling to see the smiles on their face,” said Krista Harrington, the interpretive center manager. “The new exhibit brings a creative spark to an educational adventure in the world of the wolf.”

Discover Wolves! was funded in part with a grant from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, plus a major commitment from the board of directors at the Center and its donors.

“Planning for the project started four years ago, so to see the wolf den, the science lab and artifacts in place was a magical experience,” said the board’s Chairperson, Nancy jo Tubbs. “It’s more fun than I could have imagined.”

A stunning photo mural leads visitors down a ramp and into the new exhibit space. The mosaic, which looks from afar like a wolf resting, is made up of thousands of small images. The closer one gets, the less like a wolf the mural looks, as individual images reveal themselves. Once you step back, those individual images fade and the bigger picture of the wolf is again visible.

Just inside the new exhibit hall, a wolf den is built into a rocky cave. Visitors are able to step up to the den and look inside to see video footage of real wolves in a real den.

In another display, the distance covered by a wolf on a given day is highlighted on a map of the northern United States. The distance, 30 miles, is but a small track across the vast north country. That illuminated track grows considerably when visitors press the second button, showing how far a wolf can travel in a month (600 miles). The third and final track shows what 3,000 miles looks like on a map of North America—the distance wolves can travel in a year. The display also notes wolves sometimes travel much farther, up to 8,000 miles a year, if prey is scarce.

Nearby, a simulated airplane gives visitors a chance to see how researchers track wolves from the air. Once a guest takes a seat in the cockpit and pushes a button, the adventure begins. Four screens encircle the guest, making it appear as though he or she is in the cockpit of a small airplane. The plan takes off from an ice-covered lake in Ely with Shannon Barber-Meyer riding in the front seat next to the pilot. Barber-Meyer, a wolf biologist with the United States Geological Survey, explains how she uses radio telemetry to track wolves in the wild. Near the end of the adventure, Barber-Meyer and the visitor successfully find the wild pack.

Historic artifacts aim to show how important wolves were to various cultures over time. Included in the display is a stunning hand-beaded mask in the shape of a wolf’s head. The mask was donated to the Center’s founder, Dr. L. David Mech, who in turn donated it to the Center for display.

As visitors leave the exhibit, they’re encouraged to take a quick 10-question quiz about wolves to see how much they learned from the discovery adventure.

The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit wolf.org.

Hastings resident named to new role while the Center searches for its new executive director

Contact:

Chad Richardson, communications director
International Wolf Center
Office: 763-560-7374, ext. 225
chad@wolf.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – The International Wolf Center’s board of directors voted recently to name Chad Richardson the organization’s administrator while it searches for a new executive director.

Richardson came to the Center two years ago as its communications director.

“Since Chad started at the Center, he’s shown us he can be counted on and that he cares about sustaining strong relationships with the community and with staff and board members,” said Nancy jo Tubbs, chairperson of the Center’s board of directors. “Chad has exceeded our expectations as our communications manager. We’re certain he will guide us smoothly through the next several months in both roles.”

Richardson works primarily out of the organization’s administrative office in Brooklyn Park. He’s also frequently at the interpretive center in Ely.

“I am both humbled and honored to be given this amazing opportunity and this daunting responsibility,” Richardson said. “I know this summer and fall will be truly challenging, but with the great group of co-workers and volunteers that I’ve inherited, I know we will get the job done.”

Prior to joining the staff at the Center, he was the news director for nine newspapers in the southeast Twin Cities and western Wisconsin.

Richardson lives in Hastings with his wife, Lisandra, and two children, Gabriel and Luciana. He is a native of Aberdeen, S.D., and a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead.

The Center’s executive director, Rob Schultz, resigned in May. A nationwide search for his replacement is underway.

The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit wolf.org.

Contact:
Chad Richardson, communications director
International Wolf Center
Office: 763-560-7374, ext. 2250
chad@wolf.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Visitors to the International Wolf Center in Ely will now get even more wolf education for their money. Starting this week, all admission tickets are valid for three consecutive days.

“It is our hope that this change will benefit visitors to Ely who will now be able to get a weekend-plus of wolf watching for the price of just one day,” said Chad Richardson, the Center’s administrator. “Changes like these will keep tourists in Ely longer, which has the potential to benefit the local economy.”

Visitors will receive a non-transferable wristband when they check in at the Center, and those wristbands will serve as their admission ticket for three consecutive days.

The change is being rolled out at the same time as the Center’s immersive new exhibit, Discover Wolves!, opens to the public this summer.

“We’re excited to give our visitors more value with their admission ticket and, at the same time, an even more entertaining experience at the Center,” Richardson said. “We’re hearing very positive reviews from people who have explored the new exhibit, with its howling room and research fly-over experience.”

The Center had adopted a second day of free admission in recent years, and that proved to be popular with visitors. The policy allowed visitors the opportunity to come back to see a unique daily program they may have missed, or to get a second chance to observe the behavior of the ambassador wolves. The popularity of the second day of admission prompted the Center to consider including a third day, which was recently approved by the Center’s board of directors.

Regular admission fees are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $8 for children ages 4-12. Members are free. For more information, visit wolf.org.

The International Wolf Center, founded in 1985, is known worldwide as the premier source for wolf information and education. The mission of the Center is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The Center educates through its website, its ambassador wolves, museum exhibits, educational outreach programs, International Wolf magazine, and a beautiful interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota.

Stutrud to be honored at 2019 Howl at the Moon Gala on April 11

Contact:
Chad Richardson
Communications Director
International Wolf Center
763-560-7374, ext. 225
chad@wolf.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – These days, it seems like a new brewery is opening in Minnesota on a weekly basis. In the mid 1980s, though, there wasn’t a craft beer scene, there were no taprooms and nobody had even heard of a growler.

Despite that, Mark Stutrud wanted to change careers, going from a social worker to a brewer. He wrote the nationwide brewer’s association about his idea and, to his surprise, they discouraged him from launching a brewery. He wouldn’t make it in the business, they said.

Stutrud ignored their advice and, in September 1986, the first kegs rolled off the line at Summit Brewing Co. and into Twin Cities bars. Since then, the Minnesota institution has kept growing. Summit is the state’s second-biggest brewery.

This pioneering spirit and dedication to his craft led to the International Wolf Center to name Stutrud as its 2019 Leader of the Pack Award winner. Stutrud will be given the award and honored at the Howl at the Moon Gala on Thursday, April 11, at Midland Hills Country Club.

“I’m very honored,” Stutrud said. “Absolutely surprised and very honored. The International Wolf Center, I know, is very focused on education. Wolves are an example of how absolutely complex our ecosystems are. When organizations like the International Wolf Center can provide education on the earth and all of its inhabitants, that’s a very important function.”

The Center’s Executive Director, Rob Schultz, said Stutrud was nominated by a member of the gala committee and was quickly endorsed.

“Mark’s brave decision to open a brewery, against the advice of several people, shows he’s a man of firm convictions and a decisive leader,” Schultz said. “Those are traits we love to honor with this award. We’re thrilled he will be the recipient of this award at our upcoming gala.”

Tickets for the gala are available by visiting this link.

Stutrud will be joined at the gala by his wife, Susan, and several members of Summit’s leadership team. For many years, Summit has given back to food banks, art museums, music causes and numerous charitable fundraisers and events.

“A part of our longevity is connected to the fact that we’re very engaged in the Twin Cities community,” said Stutrud. “We’ve been deeply supportive of a number of causes through the years. That also really helps us to be a consistent part of the fabric of the community.

More about the brewery

When Summit opened, Stutrud did so with a wealth of brewing knowledge in his back pocket. He received professional training from brewing legends Charles A. McElevey and Frederick H. Thomasser. He completed the courses of Brewing Theory and Practice and Brewing Microbiology and Microscopy at the Siebel Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois. In July of 1991, Stutrud was awarded the J.E. Siebel Memorial Scholarship and received his Diploma in Brewing Technology from the Siebel Institute. That technical background meant that Stutrud had the necessary tools to produce consistently great beer.

“I think our longevity has to do with the fact that we were technically sound when we introduced Extra Pale Ale and, a few months after that, Great Northern Porter,” he said. “We knew that we had to understand the industry and the different tiers of business within the brewing industry, as well as being very good technically.”

Summit, the first Minnesota brewery built in Minnesota since the repeal of Prohibition, laid the framework for others to follow. And follow they have. There are now approximately 180 breweries operating in Minnesota.

“We were sodbusters,” Stutrud said. “That’s not easy work. You’re turning over that virgin soil and it allows other people behind you to cultivate a little more easy. That’s been a part of our role.”

The International Wolf Center, founded in 1985, is known worldwide as the premier source for wolf information and education. The mission of the Center is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The Center educates through its website, its ambassador wolves, museum exhibits, educational outreach programs, International Wolf magazine, and a beautiful interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota.

The project was funded by the International Wolf Center, the Lake Superior National Parks Foundation and private donors

 

Contact:
Chad Richardson
Communications Director
International Wolf Center
763-560-7374, ext. 225
chad@wolf.org

Supporting images:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – An urgent effort to relocate seven gray wolves from Michipicoten Island and Canada’s mainland to Isle Royale has ended with success. The effort, which ran from Friday through Sunday, successfully and efficiently moved seven gray wolves at risk of death because of a shortage of prey.

The operation was funded with $45,000 from the International Wolf Center and $30,000 from the Lake Superior National Parks Foundation. Through a GoFundMe account online, another $11,500 was raised.

“We are honored to have played a role in this important operation,” said Rob Schultz, the executive director of the International Wolf Center. “We have been relaying updates of the capture and transfer progress to media and the public throughout the weekend.”

Isle Royale National Park superintendent Phyllis Green said the project on Michipicoten this weekend to save those hungry wolves would not have happened if countless donors didn’t step forward.

“I just want to thank everyone who donated,” she said. “On Saturday, we were watching the money aspects of this. It really helped to have all the donations that came in. We were pretty much right on the mark for what the estimate was and what came in from donors. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Three wolves were captured and moved Friday by teams of professionals. On Saturday, another four were moved. Of the seven, three were female. Six came from Michipicoten Island and one came from Canada’s mainland.

“They were long days, but we had a really wonderful result,” Green said. “We were coordinating five aircraft and seven wolves, arriving independently. It was very intense.”

It is believed that a 2-year-old female that was moved from Michipicoten to Isle Royale may be pregnant. If she were to give birth on Isle Royale this spring, those would be the first pups born on the island since 2014, according to Rolf Peterson, the lead researcher studying wolves and moose on the island.

“Any reproduction on the island this year would be pretty remarkable,” Peterson said. Peterson followed the weekend’s events closely.

“I was just glad it was successfully concluded,” he said. “There are so many ways it can go wrong. You’re nervous until it’s over.”

Peterson and the researchers now will wait to see how the island’s new inhabitants form their packs

“We just have to wait now until the wolves organize their personal lives and get on with things,” he said. “It’s been seven years out there since wolf predation had any impact on moose out there. It will be good to see that going again.”

The males captured on Michipicoten were close to healthy weights, but the females weighed between 50 and 60 pounds, far below what is considered healthy. The low female weights are due to the fact that the wolves on Michipicoten had run out of prey. Meanwhile, Isle Royale is populated by more than 1,600 moose, which is far above what biologists think is viable for the island to sustain. Too many moose on Isle Royale will lead to the overconsumption of vegetation, eventually causing severe damage to the the island’s ecosystem and raising concerns that the moose population may collapse.

By reintroducing wolves to the island, the moose will again have a natural predator to keep their population at sustainable levels. Scientists expect the two populations to again manage themselves as they had done on the island for decades. These seven new wolves join eight that were already on the island, including six that have been reintroduced since September through other efforts.

“Now our focus will turn to following the researchers as they study the impact of these new wolves on Isle Royale,” Schultz said. “As we move into the summer months, we look forward to working closely with the National Park Service and the Lake Superior National Parks Foundation to begin planning the next phase of wolf reintroduction efforts that are expected to occur this fall.”

About 20 to 30 new gray wolves are expected to be introduced to Isle Royale National Park over the next three to five years.

The International Wolf Center, founded in 1985, is known worldwide as the premier source for wolf information and education. The mission of the Center is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The Center educates through its website, its ambassador wolves, museum exhibits, educational outreach programs, International Wolf magazine, and a beautiful interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota.

Contact:
Chad Richardson, communications director
International Wolf Center
Office: 763-560-7374, ext. 225
chad@wolf.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – A small group of students in Vietnam will have a unique experience March 23. Teachers there will connect their students through the internet to the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, for a science-based program about wolves.

This program comes just a few days after the International Wolf Center presented a similar program to students in Nigeria.

“Since we were founded, we’ve worked hard to educate the world about wolves,” Executive Director Rob Schultz said. “These two programs shine some light on the important work we do across the world.”

These two programs aren’t the first time the Center has connected to such faraway places, but it is unique for two of the international programs to be so close together on the calendar.

“Students at each school will be amazed by our WolfLink videoconferences,” Schultz said. “They’ll even get a live view of our wolves in Ely during their live program.”

WolfLink videoconferences teach science-based facts about wolves to audiences around the world. Classrooms get a chance to see live wolves from the facility in Ely and learn from lesson plans developed specifically for their grade level. Most programs are $75.

Teachers can order a Wolf Discovery Kit, which includes hands-on learning materials such as bones, fur and teeth for them to observe and pass around.

Similar programs are held hundreds of times every year for classrooms around North America and Europe.

In addition to the videoconferences, the International Wolf Center has educators who travel into schools to present programs to more than 15,000 students every year. That program is called Wolves at Our Door.

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The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit website.

Up to six wolves, in danger of starvation, could be moved this weekend

 

Contacts:
National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation – Carol Brady
Phone: 906-362-3152
E-mail: cbrady@nplsf.org

International Wolf Center – Chad Richardson
Phone: 763-560-7374, ext. 225
Email: chad@wolf.org
Cell: 651-214-4989

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation (The Foundation) announced today that, with the support of the International Wolf Center, an urgent final effort is underway to move four to six wolves to Isle Royale National Park over the next four days.

Earlier this year, two wolves from Michipicoten Island (located in northern Lake Superior) were moved to Isle Royale. Four to six wolves still remain on the island and are at risk since their only available winter prey on the island, caribou, are gone. Officials had hoped to move all of the wolves off Michipicoten earlier, but poor weather, government shutdowns and a lack of funding delayed that effort.

The Foundation and the International Wolf Center agree that this wolf relocation project needs a strong start to have a more immediate impact on the current burgeoning moose population on Isle Royale, where an estimate of more than 1,600 moose are threatening the ecosystem.

“On Michipicoten, nature’s lessons can be cruel and starvation is one of them,” said Sona Mehring, the chair of the Foundation. “For the remaining wolves on Michipicoten, that will be their fate unless we help move them to Isle Royale National Park, where their hunting skills and genetics can add value to establishing a new population of wolves on Isle Royale.”

“We’re especially proud of the fact that the International Wolf Center is helping to save the lives of a small pack of wolves on Michipicoten Island,” said the Center’s Executive Director Rob Schultz. “Since all of the caribou have been removed from Michipicoten, there’s nothing left for the wolves there to eat this winter and there is a real threat of starvation.”

It is estimated that the four-day effort, which will begin either Friday (March 22) or Saturday (March 23), will cost $100,000. The Foundation raised $30,000. The International Wolf Center raised an additional $45,000. The organizations have started a GoFundMe page to raise the final $25,000. That page can be found at bit.ly/isleroyalewolves.

“As we discussed this project, we found many people who supported seeing the forests of Isle Royale remaining healthy,” Mehring said. “We are close to realizing the goal of providing another capture opportunity to move these iconic wolves to an island that needs them in its ecosystem.”

Science has long showed that wolves play an important role in nature. This translocation shows how wolves can be used to naturally manage ungulate populations.

“Since the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact wolves have on ecosystems,” Schultz said. “A thriving wolf population in Isle Royale’s ecosystem will make a similar impact. If left unchecked, moose would over-consume the island’s vegetation. Apex predators, like wolves, are important components of any healthy, natural ecosystems.

“This shows just one more way we put our donor’s support to hard work to advance wolf populations around the world. We’re honored to team up with National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation to make a difference together.”

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National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preservation of the natural resources and unique cultural heritage of Lake Superior’s five U.S. National Parks. National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation funds research, restoration, education, and resource protection projects for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Grand Portage National Monument, Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw National Historical Park, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation has a proven record of funding projects both large and small providing more that $1.5 million in funding across all five parks.

The International Wolf Center, founded in 1985, is known worldwide as the premier source for wolf information and education. The mission of the Center is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The Center educates through its website, its ambassador wolves, museum exhibits, educational outreach programs, International Wolf magazine, and a beautiful interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota.

International Wolf Center will follow potential effects of delisting wolves from Endangered Species Act

Contact:
Chad Richardson, communications director
International Wolf Center
Office: 763-560-7374, ext. 225

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — The protected status of gray wolves across the United States may soon change, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday. If wolves are federally delisted they will be managed by each state, likely paving the way for wolf hunting to resume in states with large wolf populations.

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the proposal Wednesday at a wildlife conference in Denver. A public comment period will follow before any final decisions can be made on the proposed change.

Wolves are listed in the Endangered Species Act and are federally protected throughout the 48 contiguous states except for a few western states where Congress delisted them (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington). Oregon, Washington and California protect their wolves by state law.

State wildlife officials estimate that wolves number approximately 2,650 in Minnesota, and another 1,500 live between Wisconsin and Michigan. Wolves were to be delisted when the population reached 1,250 for five years in Minnesota and 100 between Wisconsin and Michigan, but court battles have kept wolves returning to the endangered species list.

Should delisting occur, what is next for wolves in these three states? The International Wolf Center, based in Minnesota, will consult with biologists across the states to keep people informed about the potential effects of this delisting. Some of the questions the Center will pose to biologists are:

  • How could current state management policies change after the delisting?
  • How would removing the gray wolf from endangered or threatened status impact other species in their ecosystems?
  • How could transferring management of gray wolves to the states impact the future of wolf populations in neighboring states where populations are low or non-existent?
  • What does delisting mean for humans, livestock and pets that come in conflict with wolves?
  • What threats to wolf populations would come into play?
  • What wolf-free wildlands might allow for additional wolf population expansion?
  • How would this change impact human tolerance of wolves where wolf-human conflict has been more frequent?

Feedback

The International Wolf Center advocates on behalf of wolves through education – reaching an audience of nearly two million people annually who visit its website, discover its education center in Ely, Minnesota, read “International Wolf” magazine, or participate in its many outreach or interactive classroom experiences. To remain effective in being a source for science-based information about wolves, the Center does not take positions in matters of wolf management—but rather, encourages public dialogue and understanding of these often complex and controversial issues.

While education may not translate into immediate action, it does result in re-evaluation and change. As people gain knowledge and appreciation of wolves and their place as predators in the ecosystem, they become interested in wolf survival and recovery. Decades of research have unveiled the bioscience of this species. That research, used in public education, has motivated people to allow wolves to begin reclaiming portions of their former habitat, and has generated considerable public support for these engaging animals. The Center’s passion for wolves is at work throughout the world every day through the millions of people who have become inspired and involved as a result of its outreach and education initiatives.

Education is one of the most effective ways to influence public attitudes, and that’s critical to the future survival of wolf populations.

With that in mind, the Center is asking its members and the public to share what they value about wolves. The responses gathered may be published on Facebook, on wolf.org or in International Wolf magazine.

Click this link to share your comments with us: bit.ly/wolfvalues.

The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.

For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit www.wolf.org.

Photo courtesy of National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation

Photo courtesy of National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation

HOUGHTON, MICH- During a narrow weather window between storms last week, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) successfully transferred four wolves to Isle Royale National Park.  Earlier this winter, severe weather on both sides of the border hampered the ability to capture and transfer wolves.  However, NPS staff worked diligently with ONMRF and over the course of four days successfully translocated Canadian wolves.  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, Ontario, and transferred to Isle Royale.  Weather cleared long enough on Thursday to provide an opportunity to access Michipicoten Island Provincial Park, where two males were captured.

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 reach Michipicoten Island Provincial Park.  While there, they captured two male wolves, one at the very end of the day as operations were winding down.  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. Canadian wolves have been a critical component to future success and graciously Ontario Premier Doug Ford approved the operation in October to support NPS objectives.  Understanding 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 Ontario to support the repopulation of Isle Royale.  Knowing weather could prevent access to Michipicoten Island, OMNRF worked with NPS to develop a strategy to acquire wolves from the mainland in Ontario if they were unable to access the island.

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.

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